Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad
 Header Item Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
 Header Item Dental Services Waiting Lists
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Coastal Protection
 Header Item An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
 Header Item Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad
 Header Item Report of Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the amendment of Standing Orders 19, 20, 51 and 65: Motion
 Header Item Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages
 Header Item Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad
 Header Item Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)
 Header Item Visit of Maltese Delegation
 Header Item Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)
 Header Item Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad
 Header Item National Minimum Wage (Protection of Employee Tips) Bill 2017: Committee Stage

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 263 No. 15

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

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad

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

The need for the Minister for Health to make a statement on the lengthy waiting lists for public dental assessment or treatment in CHO5.

  I have also received notice from Senator Rónán Mullen of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to resource Individual Education Plans for children with special needs in light of concerns expressed by the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland, ASTI, and the Teachers' Union of Ireland, TUI, that teachers are not adequately resourced to implement these plans.

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

The need for the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works and flood relief to provide funding for coastal protection works at Spanish Point, County Clare.

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

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to outline his plans for educational provision for those in emergency accommodation.

  I have also received notice from Senator Kevin Humphreys of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to provide an update on the measures being taken on the BusConnects and MetroLink projects to keep costs within budget.

  I have also received notice from Senator Rose Conway-Walsh of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to outline the measures being taken to alleviate the effects of a no-deal Brexit on regional airports, in particular Ireland West Airport.

  I have also received notice from Senator Tim Lombard of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to outline the role of local authorities in addressing public health and safety concerns arising from the dereliction of privately-owned buildings.

  I have also received notice from Senator Maria Byrne of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to provide an update on the timeline for the development of a 60 modular bed block at University Hospital Limerick.

  The matters raised by the Senators are suitable for discussion and I have selected Senators O'Connor, Conway and Mullen and they will be taken now.

  Senator Ó Ríordáin has withdrawn his Commencement matter, which I had originally selected. The other Senators may give notice on another day of the matters that they wish to raise.

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Dental Services Waiting Lists

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Helen McEntee, to the House.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to deal with this matter. I had hoped the Minister, Deputy Harris, would be here but I know he is a busy man.

  I have been inundated with calls from people with serious concerns regarding dental care for children in CHO5. The HSE provides dental services to children up to aged 16. Children attending primary schools can be referred to dental treatment by a child health service or following a routine school visit. Children attending primary schools are screened in second, fourth and sixth class and, if necessary, are referred to the local dental clinic for treatment. Some children are referred to an orthodontic clinic for further treatment. This referral is from the principal dental surgeon in the health centre and orthodontic treatment is free. An individual's access to orthodontic treatment is determined by guidelines known as the "modified index of treatment need". Emergency services are also available to all schoolgoing children but mainly on a part-time, specific weekday basis. There is nothing but costly private dental care for children on weekends.

  I recently heard from constituents who have a child with a baby tooth that would not fall out going for a two-second tweezer extraction on a Saturday that cost them €75, for which the tooth fairy gave them back €2. We all know who lost out. The Minister of State will be aware of the great benefits of the scheme. Many children are caught early and encouraged to ensure good dental hygiene and there is often a need to undertake only minimal work to prevent major work in the future. However, there is a serious problem with the scheme. Data published last month by the Irish Dental Association indicate that more than 80,000 children and adolescents are waiting for a public dental assessment or treatment, of which 22,900 are on the waiting list in CHO5, which takes in Carlow-Kilkenny, south Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford. In almost every area of society early intervention saves time, money and distress and produces far better outcomes.

  How does the Minister propose to tackle the unacceptable delays in this scheme? It is not good enough that hard pressed parents are forced to pay for the treatment their child or children urgently need. Many of them cannot afford it. The aim of the scheme is to provide dental care for every child regardless of means. It is a wonderful idea but it is not working. According to the Irish Dental Association, the waiting list numbers are shocking. Its spokesperson, Dr. Gillian Smith, said that due to the delays around assessments children were enduring painful episodes and being treated with antibiotics and, often, surgery under general anaesthetic, which is costly to the State and easily prevented with early intervention.

  The incredible waiting lists have been highlighted by hundreds of my constituents in just two counties in CHO5. I imagine hundreds more in the other counties are not complaining because they realise we are all being forced into a two-tier system, whether we like it. People feel they have to pay for everything. What is the Department of Health doing to reduce waiting lists in this area? On the modified index of treatment need, many children appear to be just outside the threshold. In 2013, the HSE commissioned an independent review of orthodontic services. Something is wrong if orthodontic services across the country are offering easy pay plans for taxpayers to have their children treated because the HSE is not getting the job done.

  It was revealed late last year that there is a 12 month waiting list for orthodontic treatment in my area. That is a long time for a child suffering with a grade four diagnosis, which may mean speech difficulties or protruding displacement of teeth, or a child with a grade five diagnosis and abnormally arranged teeth, not to mention the child whose diagnosis is minimally outside of the guidelines in terms of access to treatment. Parents are forced to pay for this treatment. On 4 February last, the Minister, Deputy Harris, said on RTÉ radio that it is his job to look after the health of the children of Ireland. The delays in the dental assessment and treatment area are unacceptable. I hope the Minister of State will be able to answer my questions today.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Health who sends his apologies for not being here. If the Senator has any follow-on questions I will, of course, raise them with him and he will respond to her directly.  I thank the Senator for the opportunity to address the issue of dental services in CHO 5. Eligibility for dental services is provided for in the Health Act 1970. Dental treatment for adult medical card holders is provided under the dental treatment services scheme by contracted general dental practitioners. The HSE provides oral healthcare services to children and vulnerable people of all ages including people with special needs, people with disabilities and people who are medically compromised. It also includes cohorts such as refugees and asylum seekers. Services are provided on the basis of need and include four key areas, namely emergency care; targeted preventive and treatment services for children; planned care for children and adults with special care needs; and hospital services, including general anaesthetic services. Targeted preventive and treatment services for children emphasise prevention of dental disease through patient and parent oral health education, dietary advice and tooth-brushing instruction, along with preventive interventions such as the placement of fissure sealants on vulnerable tooth surfaces. Restorative treatment such as fillings is also available. Children in the targeted age groups are typically in first or second class and sixth class. Where resources allow, some children may also be seen in fourth class.

  CHO 5, now known as South East Community Healthcare, provides community health and social care services within south-eastern counties of Waterford, Wexford, South Tipperary, Carlow and Kilkenny. Recent HSE figures indicate that as of 1 January 2019 there were 35,466 in second, fourth and sixth classes in the South East Community Healthcare area. A number of these children would have been seen during January and to date in February. It should be noted that the service which these children receive is a screening service - the Deputy is correct that prevention is the best measure against more serious challenges - provided for children at key ages to coincide with eruption of back teeth and once parental consent is given. This is an ongoing rolling programme for routine dental care. The emphasis is on preventive care such as fissure sealants and advice with fillings provided if necessary.

  There are 2,198 awaiting treatment following screening. It should be noted that some children may be counted twice, for example where they are to be seen by a hygienist for preventive care and by a dentist for treatment following their assessment. Following a fire in the St. Dympna’s Hospital Carlow in November 2016, dental services ceased. This resulted in the cancellation of four surgeries for four months. Additional services using agency staff and additional clinics during evenings and weekends were used in 2017 to address the backlog in appointments. The dental service is still dealing with some backlogs in appointments as a result. The Minister is aware of this and is trying to deal with it. While there are ongoing difficulties in recruitment and retention of dentists in the South East Community Healthcare area, two vacancies were filled in 2018, and we hope to recruit more in the coming year. The HSE will continue to prioritise patients with greatest needs. Emergency care for the relief of pain and infection is available for all children aged up to 15 years, and patients with special needs on a same day or following day basis at HSE dental clinics across the country. Approximately 6,000 children attend for emergency treatment each month nationally.

  The Minister is very much aware of concerns and the specific issues in this area. He is committed to filling the vacancies, reducing waiting lists and ensuring that the children, not only in this area but also surrounding areas, are treated in the appropriate manner and as quickly as possible.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I was aware of the fire at St. Dymphna's and the resulting backlog. The two biggest issues are the out-of-hours service where if a child has a toothache on a Saturday or Sunday the parent must pay privately. Many parents do not have the money to pay for that. There are also questions of the time delay and of qualification; a child may be told that they can qualify for a brace but then it turns out that their bite is wrong or that it is a millimetre out. Some children are well deserving but parents cannot afford the treatment. We need to have a new look at the system and there should be an appeals system. There is none now and there is no way of addressing urgent cases that do not qualify under the scheme.

Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The new national oral health policy will be published shortly by the Minister for Health. Its aim is to develop models of care that will emphasise preventive care and prioritise preventive approaches from childhood to old age, support the public, ensure easy access to care and enable people to have the best oral health. Issues such as out of hours, delay and qualification may be addressed. However, as with any scheme there must be a cut-off point after which access is not possible. However, as the Senator says, there can be a fine line.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Teastaíonn uaim ceist a ardú ar luaigh mé ar an Ord Gnó sa Teach seo ar 6 Feabhra. I raise an issue which I mentioned briefly during the Order of Business on 6 February. It is estimated that approximately 25% of students have special educational needs of one kind or another. Legislation envisages the provision of individual educational plans, IEPs, for many of these children. These are written plans prepared for a student specifying the learning goals to be achieved over a set period, as well as teaching strategies, support and resources necessary to achieve those goals. The value of these plans is accepted and they are implemented across the world including in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Education for Persons with Special Needs Act 2004, or EPSEN Act, includes a requirement for schools to provide an individualised education plan for students with special needs. However, this section of the Act has not been commenced 14 years after it was passed by these Houses. The National Council for Special Education developed guidelines on the provision of individual education plans in 2006, which is now 12 years ago.

  In response to a Parliamentary Question on 4 December, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, told the Dáil:

There is currently not a statutory requirement for schools to provide a mandatory Individual Education Plan for children with special needs. [...]

  However, all schools are encouraged to use some form of educational planning for the delivery of additional teaching, or care supports, for children with special educational needs [...]

  My Department's Inspectorate's advice is that the majority of schools are now using some form of education planning for children with special educational needs.

Despite the Oireachtas passing a law requiring schools to implement these plans 14 years ago, this remains to be commenced or brought into force. The position, as the Minister told the Dáil, is that we are relying on the goodwill of teachers and the ability of individual schools to implement individual education plans from their own resources. This state of affairs changed before Christmas when the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, ASTI, issued advice to its members not to implement IEPs due to a lack of adequate resourcing. A circular to its members on 18 December 2018:

In view of the fact that IEPs have not commenced under the EPSEN Act, ASTI members are advised not to implement IEPs or equivalents [...].

The ASTI is extremely concerned that in the context of insufficient resourcing and the lack of a sustainable model for the delivery of all aspects of the EPSEN Act [...]

The ASTI rejects the imposition of a special education needs model which takes no account of the time, workload and practical implications for teachers and schools.

I understand that the Teachers Union of Ireland, TUI, has given similar advice to its members. While the ASTI made clear that this would not affect any existing plans in place, this is nonetheless very worrying. How is it defensible that 14 years after the passage of the 2004 Act that IEPs have not been given force of law? How can it be acceptable that the teachers themselves feel that they cannot provide these plans due to a lack of resources? We are all aware of the seeming inability of some Departments to manage public finances in a prudent way, causing massive potential waste of Exchequer resources. It would be horrible to think that this would be one area that would suffer the downstream consequences of such mismanagement. I would be grateful if the Minister of State could give me any assurance today that that is not the case. I would be grateful if she could give me a response that goes further and offers more than the Minister's response in the Dáil some months ago.

Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I thank the Senator for raising this issue as it gives me an opportunity to outline the position on educational planning in schools on behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills.  The Department of Education and Skills recently wrote to the Teachers Union of Ireland and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland to reiterate to them the importance of planning for pupils with special educational needs in schools and to note that provision has been made for such planning. Under the Education Act, schools have a legal duty to provide an appropriate education to all students. The Senator is correct to state there is no statutory requirement for schools to provide a particular form of individual educational plans but there is a statutory obligation to provide education appropriate to the abilities and needs of students. This includes people with special educational needs and, obviously, schools need to plan to ensure this happens.

  Planning is a normal part of a teacher's work and planning tools, such as the student support file, have been created as a resource to help schools provide for their students. The Government has invested heavily in recent years in supporting our children with special educational needs, with €1.8 billion spent annually, which is approximately €1 in every €5 of the education budget. This is 20%, which is close enough to the figure the Senator mentioned with regard to those needing special support in our schools. I assure the Senator there is no mismanagement of funding and the €1.8 billion is being spent very much appropriately.

  All mainstream schools are provided with special education teachers, based on the profiled needs of the school, to provide extra teaching support for pupils who have additional learning needs in schools. At present, there are almost 14,000 special education teachers in schools, an increase of more than 37% since 2011. This has greatly increased the number of special education teachers who have been allocated to schools throughout the country.

  The Department's circulars 0013 and 0014 of 2017, which set out the basis for the allocation of special education teachers to schools, note the importance of educational planning. This is to ensure that children with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support. The circulars note that educational planning is an essential element of a whole-school approach to meeting pupils' needs. The circulars also note that in making allocations for special education teachers to schools, provision is made within the total allocation for planning and co-ordination activities.

  Circular 0014 of 2017 for post-primary schools states the allocation for special education teaching support being provided for schools includes provision for planning and co-ordination activities required to ensure the most effective use of the special educational needs hours provided to schools for children. The extent of co-ordination time required to be used by schools will vary depending on the number of students requiring additional teaching support and the number of teachers proving this support. It is noted, however, that planning for the provision of additional teaching support for pupils in schools is an important part of the process, and that co-ordination and planning time for this has been acknowledged in the allocation. Schools, therefore, should be resourced to carry out planning.

  Support and guidance for schools on how best to carry out educational planning is available from the National Council for Special Education support service and the National Educational Psychological Service. The Department's advice is that the majority of schools do carry out some form of educational planning for pupils with special educational needs. This is an appropriate use of the significant levels of additional special education teaching resources that have been provided for schools. The ongoing provision of planning should represent a continuation of the good practice that is already occurring in the majority of schools throughout the country.

  I reiterate that no projects or investment in education, including in special needs, will be amended or reduced in the coming months or years because of another project.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I thank the Minister of State for her response. I reassure her that in talking about the potential downstream consequences of mismanagement I do not suggest mismanagement of the existing budgetary allocation to the area of special needs in education, I am talking about the wider mismanagement of public money in the economy and, therefore, the lack of necessary extra and additional resourcing. The Minister of State made the point she estimates the approximately 20% of the budget, at approximately €1.8 billion, going to special educational needs is not far off the quota of students with special educational needs of one type or another. Surely, when we speak about children with special educational needs, we imagine there would be a greater percentage of resources and not a slightly lesser percentage of resources dedicated to their needs. Why are individual education plans in the legislation if they have not been provided? I am involved in the management of a primary school in receipt of resources under the special needs heading and I do not dispute there has been much investment in the area but why, if the legislation envisages individual educational plans, has it not been implemented 14 years on?

Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I reiterate that when we look at the figures we see that in the past seven or eight years there has been an increase of more than 37%. Although we still have more work to do, the Senator will agree this is a significant increase. We have the significant number of 14,000 special education teachers in our schools providing support to students on a daily basis. A total of €1.8 billion is spent annually and this is having a significant impact throughout the country.

  There is no statutory requirement to provide a particular form of individual education but there is a statutory obligation to provide education to students appropriate to their abilities and needs. The Minister has already outlined that the vast majority of schools provide these plans. They are focusing on where there are clear measurable learning targets, specifying the resources and interventions used to address student needs. This is in line with the continuum of support process. While subject teachers retain overall responsibility for the provision of education to students, in most instances special education teachers will develop the student support plans. Teachers are working with their students and with parents, families and the school to ensure the plans are in place. The Department informs me the supports and resources are there but if the Senator has information to the contrary I will pass it on to the Minister, who will continue to engage with the TUI and ASTI to ensure children receive the adequate support they require.

Coastal Protection

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit go dtí an Teach. I am absolutely delighted the Minister of State, Deputy Moran, has come to the House to deal with this Commencement matter. The history of the issue goes back to 2014, when practically all of the west coast of Ireland was battered on 4 and 6 January and significant coastal damage was done by the Atlantic Ocean. The houses of many people were flooded and businesses were damaged. I am delighted to say much work has been done on coastal protection, certainly in County Clare, since this happened. A total of €5 million has already been spent on rock armour and essential coastal protection works in Lahinch. Another €2 million or €3 million is being spent as we speak and the contracts were signed last week. This is a significant investment in Lahinch. Other parts of County Clare have also had significant coastal protection works carried out. The international hotel in Doonbeg has made a planning application that is with An Bord Pleanála to invest millions of euro in rock armour.

  I am concerned about a particular part of the coastline at Spanish Point. It is a particularly vulnerable area where rock armour and coastal protection works are not adequate. The residents have done a significant amount of work on the streetscape and amenities near the beach with regard to making it visibly attractive for people who live there all year round and, equally importantly, for the people who visit. There is concern about the ongoing delays in approval of the minor works programme necessary for the local authority to get on with the work that must be done to put in place the necessary coastal protections.

  I am raising the issue in the hope the response from the Minister of State will allay these concerns and we might get a specific timeline on when the work will start and, equally importantly, when the work will be completed.

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran I thank the Senator for raising the matter and I am pleased to provide an update. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has overall responsibility for Government policy on coastal strategy.  Local authorities lead on identifying works to protect the coast in their respective areas. The primary objective of Government policy on coastal protection is to ensure that, in areas identified as being at greatest risk of damage or loss of economic assets through coastal flooding, appropriate and sustainable measures are identified by local authorities to protect those assets. Where defence measures are economically justified and compatible with all required environmental and other statutory requirements, they can be implemented subject to the availability of resources.

  The Government decided, on 11 February 2014, to make available up to €69.5 million, based on estimates provided by the local authorities concerned, for a programme of repair and remediation works to roads, coastal protection and flood defence and other public infrastructure damaged in the storms from 13 December 2013 to 6 January 2014. Of the total amount made available, up to €19.6 million was provided via the Office of Public Works for the repair of damaged coastal protection and flood defence infrastructure. Based on the estimates submitted by local authorities to the then Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, that Department contacted all affected local authorities indicating the amounts being made available to the councils to undertake the necessary repairs works. This included the amounts available via the OPW in respect of the cost of repairs to damaged coastal protection and flood defence infrastructure in the country.

  The amount made available to Clare County Council for coastal protection repair works was €9,712,385. Clare County Council submitted to the OPW a programme of works based on its allocation of €9,712,385, and this included repair works at Spanish Point, County Clare. Further to that, my office, through the minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection scheme, provides a funding mechanism to support works to protect coastal communities, particularly those at risk from flooding. In this regard, the OPW minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection scheme provides funding to local authorities to undertake minor flood mitigation, coastal protection works or studies costing less than €750,000 each to address localised flooding and coastal protection problems within their administrative areas. In 2015, Clare County Council received funding of €65,000 from the OPW under this scheme for a coastal erosion and risk management study from Quilty to Miltown Malbay, which produced recommendations for works at Spanish Point, County Clare. In September 2018, on foot of those recommendations, Clare County Council made an application to the OPW for funding for the provision of rock armour to protect against cliff erosion caused by waves and tides at Spanish Point. This application is currently under consideration. As soon as a decision is made on this application, this will issue to the council.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I thank the Minister of State for a comprehensive reply. The key question is when a decision on the application will be made. I have no doubt that it will be positive but I would like a timeline for the decision, because it has been with the Department since well before Christmas. I am not sure how long these things take but I would like the Minister of State to give us an idea.

Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran: Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran The Senator has raised this with matter me a number of times and I have given it considerable attention in order to deliver the project. I know what Spanish Point means, not just for tourism but for people who live there and who need to be protected in their homes and villages. I assure the Senator that everything is being done by my office and the local authorities to deliver on this as soon as we can. Things need to happen to meet the criteria and we are accelerating our work to get delivery as quickly as possible.

  Sitting suspended at 11.05 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges concerning amendments to Standing Orders 19, 20, 51 and 65, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business without debate; Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2018, Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 12.45 p.m.; No. 3, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017, Committee Stage, resumed, to be taken at 3 p.m. and to adjourn at 5.45 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 4, National Minimum Wage (Protection of Employee Tips Bill) 2017, Committee Stage, to be taken at 6.15 p.m. and to adjourn after two hours, if not previously concluded.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I commend my colleagues in Sinn Féin, who are not here today, on their colleague Deputy John Brady's questioning of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection on JobPath. It is quite shocking that out of 206,000 JobPath applicants, only 11,333 remained in sustainable employment. Many colleagues in this House have raised issues with JobPath. We are aware that, to date, Turas Nua and Seetec have each been paid more than €70 million. It is now time that the Minister accepted that this labour activation programme is not working and must be changed. She needs to move back to the old community employment schemes. It is staggering that, for each placement, the private contractor gets up to €3,700. It seems to be another rip-off of taxpayers, and the State seems to be happy to spend it without any thought or consequence whatsoever.

  The second issue I would like to raise concerns the use of wet wipes. Ms Deirdre Clune, MEP, has expressed her disgust over their use. Many of us use them. They are disposable wipes but many of us do not realise how dangerous they are to the environment. Ms Clune has asked that they come with a warning sign. They are not flushable but we are aware that they appear on our seashores. We need to ban them or sell them with express warnings because they present a great threat to our environment.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The first issue I want to address is the failed system to encourage retired officers of the Air Corps to return. A massive system was put in place to encourage them to come back but, to my knowledge, one lieutenant colonel and one captain have applied to come back and be commissioned. In inviting people to return, the authorities have not ring-fenced the appointments to prevent those returning from progressing to the next rank. If, for the sake of argument, a commandant returns and a vacancy for a lieutenant colonel arises, that commandant, who may have been out of the system for ten years, is suddenly eligible to apply for promotion to the post. That is grossly unfair to those who remained in the Air Corps. In the teaching profession, those who leave teaching and return not only return at the bottom of the scale but do so at the bottom of the new scale. It is grossly unfair to entice people who have left and enjoyed a period in the private sector, possibly earning big money with some of the commercial airlines, to come back and start closing off promotional posts for those who have remained loyal to the State and stayed behind. More important, who dreamt up this idea? Who dreamt up the idea that the only way we can solve the problem of losing members of the Army, Air Corps and Navy is by asking people who have retired to come back? Where is that coming from? What sort of thinking went into that? We should have the Minister of State with responsibility for defence in here to discuss this. I ask the Leader to do this for me.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer He is coming in next week.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Last night, the fifth report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on Standing Orders 19, 20, 51 and 65 arrived in my mailbox. I see that the change to Standing Order 19 reduces the quorum to six. That is outrageous. This is a House of Parliament. We should not try to make it easy for Members to avoid sitting in the Chamber. The quorum has been used with great effect in recent times to try to ensure a Bill that is seriously flawed-----

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

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please. The Leader will have an opportunity to respond.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator is pretty good at calling quorums himself, in fairness to him.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan When the motion is put, Senator Craughwell may oppose it if he wishes.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator may have done his homework-----

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

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The quorum-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Craughwell is a former president of the Teachers Union of Ireland, TUI. He should know how to behave.

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

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The quorum is a legitimate tool used in parliaments. It was used during my time as president of the TUI in order to ensure that something which is totally-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is a good job the Senator is not in the Áras.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We can only hear one Senator at a time. Senator Craughwell's time is practically up in any event.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I would say that my time is probably only half-way through.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I accept that Senator Craughwell has been interrupted.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach. This is wrong and I would ask the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, CPP, to go back.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Why is it wrong?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It is wrong to reduce-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Explain why it is wrong.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, Leader. That does not arise at this stage. We will deal with it when the motion is put.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is rubbish. The Leas-Chathaoirleach is encouraging the Senator.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell In light of the fact that the Leader will have unfettered opportunity to respond, let me explain to him why I believe it is wrong. It is wrong because it makes it easy for the Government side in a debate to scrape through with the minimum number of Senators available for quorum duties. The bottom line is, that is wrong. The Leader has argued that the quorum used by myself, Senator Norris and Senator McDowell during the debate on Committee Stage of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 has been misused or abused. It is a legitimate parliamentary tool, and from that point of view, I reject any attempt to say that it has been abused. I would ask the CPP to revisit this.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Of course. I thank Senator Craughwell.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I wish to raise the issue of the deprivation of liberty and institutional abuse and the particular responsibility we in Ireland, as a result of our history, have to ensure that the State takes an active role in monitoring, overseeing and intervening to safeguard the vulnerable in institutions from being abused. A key mechanism for addressing the potential for abuse in institutions is to ensure independent and regular inspections. Inspections shine a light on otherwise closed and hidden spaces, often the common thread of institutional abuse. Providing for such inspections is the central idea behind the optional protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, OPCAT, which Ireland has yet to ratify.

  Even after the litany of revelations of institutional and historical abuse in Ireland, our inspection regime is seriously flawed. There is no inspection body for those detained in Garda stations following arrest. The inspectorate of prisons has published only one prison inspection report since 2014. There is no oversight body for direct provision centres or nursing homes, and many existing inspection mechanisms are not clearly entitled under law to conduct unannounced and regular inspections.

  Under OPCAT, Ireland would be required to establish a national preventive mechanism, which is a co-ordinated inspection regime that is independent of government and has real powers. Independent inspectors could go to any place of detention unannounced and inspect any part of the residence. These would not just be in settings that we traditionally think of as detention centres, such as prisons or Garda stations, because many people are deprived of their liberty in health and social care settings, including immigration detention facilities, psychiatric hospitals, care homes, secure accommodation for children and nursing homes. People with disabilities, older people or those in addiction can be subjected to coercive practices in care, such as the withholding or overuse of vital medicine. Thorough and sustained monitoring and oversight of all these places is needed in order to protect people from inhuman or degrading treatment. Ireland signed OPCAT in 2007 but has not ratified it, which means that the Government does not have to comply with its requirements. What are the Government's plans in this area and when we can expect Ireland to ratify OPCAT? As we know from the experience with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNCRPD, this can happen separately to the legislative process.

  I will also oppose the change to Standing Orders if it comes to a vote. The change seems to suit the current needs of Government Senators. The quorum is one of the few parliamentary tactics we have in opposition. Regardless of whether I agree that it has been abused, I definitely do not want to shoot myself in the foot, particularly if I need to abuse at some point in the future in the context of legislation in which I have a vested interest. I will oppose the change to Standing Orders if it comes to it.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I refer to the response of the Taoiseach in the Dáil yesterday regarding Spinraza. Parents and sufferers alike received bad news after months and months of raising this issue and waiting for a response. The HSE, yet again, has not been held accountable for how it negotiates an acceptable price with Biogen, the maker of Spinraza. Practically every other European country has managed to negotiate a deal with Biogen but, in 18 months, the HSE has failed patients here. That is not acceptable. The rare diseases technology review committee has recommended Spinraza to be supplied on a managed access programme so that the cost can be managed but the corporate pharmaceutical unit, CPU, seems unable to act to communicate what an acceptable deal would look like. The lack of any communication with the patient group over the past 18 months by the HSE is highly disrespectful and unacceptable. The CPU has to be held accountable for this. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, in whom Fianna Fáil will show confidence later today, has not shown any interest in doing this or in offering to meet the families. I appeal to him to meet these families in order to discuss the matter. We are talking about a small number of children.

  Another issue that affects children is the audiology test that deviated from best practice. I accompanied parents of affected children to meetings with the HSE on one occasion and asked the official present if there were any more cases apart from the 49 identified. I was told "No". Time and again, we were all told "No" and that there were 49 cases. There are Senators sitting in this Chamber who know that this is true. From my experience of other scandals, the initial figure given of agencies and companies rarely gives the full picture. We now know that 60 more cases have been identified. Many of these children are in the late stages of development and have gone misdiagnosed for years. In many cases, there may be permanent or reversible damage. Some of these children had already underlying disabilities. I ask that the fault, wherever it lies in the review process, be addressed so that absolutely everybody who is affected can be contacted and adequate treatment and support be provided. We need an inquiry into this. It is obvious that the governance was not in place here and that, again, nobody was accountable. That is why a review is needed. Some of the 49 cases do not even have their medical card applications approved. The buck must stop somewhere. This matter is evidence of another failing on the part of the Minister for Health.

  Finally, regarding the news that only 11,334 persons out of the 206,000 who have been taken on by JobPath remained in employment for over 12 months, the two companies, Seetec and Turas Nua, received full payment for every one of these referrals. In fact, they received double payments. The Dáil has passed the motion calling for the end of mandatory referrals. I want the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to come before the House to discuss this matter because this is where it originated. In December 2016, I and my colleague, former Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, raised the scandal of JobPath. Incidentally, the Taoiseach was Minister for Social Protection when that contract was negotiated. I want to see the contract because I want to see where the €149 million has gone.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I thank Senator Ruane for raising an important issue regarding the human rights of some vulnerable people in institutions here and the lack of enforcement of international law as it applies to the vulnerable. I want to raise an issue of concern in respect of how a vulnerable group of people who work in Ireland are treated by the system. In doing so, I wish highlight an article, written by Ms Felicity Lawrence and the Irish journalist, Ms Ella McSweeney, in today's edition of The Guardian, that draws attention to the human rights abuses of migrant fishermen who are working in the Irish system. Troublingly, this condemnation comes not simply from a politician, a trade unionist or somebody from an NGO, but from four high-ranking UN rapporteurs on human rights, trafficking, modern slavery and racial discrimination. I read the letter because I received it last week from the International Transport Workers Federation, the union operating to protect the interests of seafarers. It is a damning indictment of how we treat migrant fishermen in this country. The rapporteurs believe that the atypical permanent scheme in place at present leaves migrant workers open to exploitation, trafficking and human slavery.  That is a shocking indictment of this country. One of the problems is that the visa is tied to just one employer. One can imagine a vulnerable migrant worker putting a hand up to say they have not been paid, have been worked to sickness and are not being protected. If they put their hand up, they lose that right to work here because they have overstepped the mark with their employer when they are tied to that one employer. We can imagine all of the problems associated with that.

  I have personally dealt with a considerable number of migrant fishers from north Africa who, in my opinion and in the opinion of the UN rapporteurs, are being exploited, are in a very vulnerable position and are not being protected by the atypical permits scheme in place here at the moment. I am on public record as challenging that scheme in this House, in the media and elsewhere. The scheme needs to be scrapped and the Ministers for Justice and Equality, Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and Business, Enterprise and Innovation need to work with the International Transport Workers' Federation to ensure we have a pipeline of workers from outside of Europe and the EEA states who are willing and able to work in the fishing industry in this country, but that they are protected and there is a scheme in place that respects their human rights, vindicates their rights and supports them. At the moment, this scheme is simply not working and it is open to abuse and to exploitation. I want to hear from the Minister for Justice and Equality what he is going to do about this.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, to the House for a comprehensive afternoon discussion on rural Ireland and all the issues that pertain thereto. I emphasise that the good news in all of that will be that we have a vibrant rural Ireland and that many great things are happening there, although we would want to fill any deficits that exist. I congratulate the Minister on the announcement last week of the rural regeneration scheme grants. To date, €86 million has been spent on 84 projects. It is a huge success nationally and is transformative for communities. The thing I most congratulate the Minister on is that he is only grant-aiding shovel-ready projects so we do not have money wasted in delays, and if money is invested, it is spent on the day.

  Last week, Cavan and Monaghan were very successful in the allocation of rural regeneration grants across places like Castleblayney, Clones, Ballyjamesduff and Cootehill. All across Cavan and Monaghan there were significant grants that are part of the €10 million that has been spent in my constituency by the Minister since he came into office. It is a huge investment in rural Ireland. We should be very proud of it as it transforms the lives of people and their quality of life, creates jobs and has a multiplier effect on the economy and on community life.

  We would have the debate to monitor where all of that is going, look at the projects and insist projects must be shovel-ready. We must also insist that we are generating enough projects to ensure they continue bubbling up, as well as discussing other facets such as rural transport. There is a need for a comprehensive debate on rural Ireland with the Minister shortly. While we have much to be proud of, that is never a reason for complacency.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 3 will not be proceeded with and that it be replaced by a request to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and Finance, Deputy Donohoe, to come to the House to outline in detail the projects that will be cancelled or postponed due to the overrun of costs at the national children's hospital on the St. James's site.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Senator is scaremongering.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I am referring to projects like the rehabilitation unit at Roscommon University Hospital, the 50-bed unit at the Sacred Heart hospital in Roscommon, which is very badly needed and has been promised by general election candidates of the Fine Gael Party over the last number of years, the refurbishment of the courthouse in Roscommon, flood relief and national roads. Of course, all of these projects are being held until after 24 May for the council elections and European elections. Let us tell the truth. It is not the third secret of Fatima. These projects are very clearly identified. The Government cannot afford the overrun of €500 million or more in regard to this project. It is a very badly handled project, which has been debated so many times. Our dear colleague, Senator Maura Hopkins, who is the candidate for Fine Gael in the general election of the next year-----

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins Not yet.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden -----has been reassuring the electorate again in the Roscommon Herald this week, where she is photographed outside the Sacred Heart hospital, and is saying, "Don't worry. Fear not." However, in the words of a well-known character, she would say that.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins It is true. Anyway, Senator Leyden would say what he is saying.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I am delighted to say that.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer He will want to bring back Seán Doherty next.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ask Senator Leyden to wind up.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I will certainly wind up. On behalf of the electorate of Roscommon, I really appreciate Senator Hopkins putting her neck out.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator cannot address Members across the Chamber. He is also half a minute over time.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I admire Senator Hopkins for her courage. I am very impressed that she is prepared to give those commitments without the support of the Department of Finance.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Thank you. We have the proposal.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden We can postpone the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill today at 3 p.m. and have this matter debated today in the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator's proposal is noted.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for his patience. He is a gentleman, no doubt about it.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell I remind my honourable friend in Fianna Fáil that I have a little box on the top of everything I earn, and it is called the universal social charge, thanks to them, the builders and the banks, so I will not-----

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Did Senator O'Donnell win the lottery today?

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell I am a member of the Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and we have a very fine Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. When we look at the whole area of culture - music, dance, drama, visual arts, literature, poetry and all the myriad of the arts - from the time we are children to the time we are old but young at heart, it is an enormous, universal area and an expression of the human being. If we then look at heritage, we are into the whole area of the environment, hedges, trees, animals, peatlands, birds and insects - what my colleague, Senator Grace O'Sullivan was speaking about yesterday - a world of life, a universe of biodiversity that is slowly eroding.

  I have an important question in this regard. I want to ask the Leader what one does, as a Senator, to try to get both of those Departments separated. In 2019, there should be a Department with a specific outline of biodiversity and environment - of our living, diverse environment. I am not talking about the environment of building-----

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Leyden is totally out of order. He heard the Cathaoirleach yesterday.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden It is not me. It is the phone that is out of order.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is the Senator's phone. If Members are going to behave like this, I will do what the Cathaoirleach promised yesterday and suspend the House for an hour. Be very careful, the whole lot of you. Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell, without interruption.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell It is a very important issue. The reason I say it is that if we listen to the farmers, Birdwatch Ireland, the Peatlands Council and the people who come into the Houses and who deal with the environment every day - the actual biodiversity environment - they are not getting a fair chance within this structure in that they have the third part of a Department. At the same time, I suggest that arts and culture need far more emphasis. I am not suggesting that one is greater than the other but that these are so enormous - they are cities and universes in themselves - especially in regard to biodiversity, the environment and its preservation.

  As a Senator, I want to know what should I do, or what could we do, to even suggest that those Departments would be separate. At one stage, arts was on its own, then it was in with sport and it is now in with the environment. They are too important-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Leader will respond to the Senator on that.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell That is my question today. I would like the Senators to think about it. Biodiversity and our abuse of the environment come up every day in the newspapers and on television. Einstein said that the next war would be fought with clubs. He was right. We will end up with no environment.

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

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell No, it is very important. I was interrupted by Fianna Fáil.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I know that, but I have allowed the Senator more time and now she has doubled it. I allowed for that.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden As we approach full employment, people are looking for more choice in their employment and for opportunities that contribute to a more positive work-life balance. For many the idea of working from rural Ireland is increasingly attractive. There are some who would love to return to their home place, and others who desire to get away from the traffic and higher costs associated with city living. For these people, working from home or from a shared workspace in a local town is the ideal. An organisation has now been set up to help people to do just that. Grow Remote is an organisation that has only been set up recently but already has 40 chapters all over the country. According to one survey on remote working, 62% of people do not work remotely because they do not know how to get started and fear they will not have a work community to share things with. Grow Remote has been set up entirely by volunteers and is addressing these issues. I was surprised to learn that 200,000 people are already working remotely full-time or part-time in Ireland. This organisation provides them with an opportunity to meet with each other, network, share ideas and information and organise resources where they deem it necessary.

  The nature of debate in this House often means that we hear negative stories on negative issues, but this is a good news story. It is a story of people who got together and are trying to make life better for themselves and their communities. A group like this would be very welcome in my own home town of Athlone. It would complement current plans for a high-speed hub on the west side of Athlone and make it more attractive to live and work in the midlands. We all know that Athlone is the centre of the universe. Two weeks ago, Grow Remote addressed the Joint Committee on Rural and Community Development and was very well received. I am asking the Leader to ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Seán Canney, and other Ministers to do whatever they can to help this organisation so that people can live and work in rural Ireland.

  On the subject of the quorum, I feel strongly that Senator Craughwell and others are against the idea of reducing the quorum. These people want new politics. They want to have a leaders' and whips' meeting every week. They want the Leader to agree the agenda with them instead of having the Leader determine the agenda like it was in the old days. They want to share in that.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Bring those days back.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden At the same time, they do not actually want to partake-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That item is on the agenda.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden -----and keep the system running. They are often outside the door in the anteroom sniggering and laughing when they have called a quorum-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Hear, hear.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden -----while members of the Government are running from committee meetings, leaving the very valuable work they are doing there, to run up here to provide a quorum. We should be more professional.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It is a legitimate tool of Parliament.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden It is a legitimate tool of Parliament, but this change does not stop Senators from calling a quorum. It would just mean we would only need six Members rather than 12.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan There would still be a quorum.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell That would be lovely.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden The Senator's facility would still be there.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell That would be lovely, just six. Why not reduce it to one?

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Senator Craughwell wants new politics.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell This is sleight of hand.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden New politics, when it suits Senator Craughwell.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I wish to briefly raise two matters today. First, I remind people that the National Minimum Wage (Protection of Employee Tips) Bill 2017 is to be debated this evening at 6 p.m. I express my gratitude to people across all parties who have offered expressions of support today, and I appeal for their support again this evening to get this very simple but important Bill through to Report Stage. We are very happy to work as constructively as possible with the Government and all parties on Report Stage to ensure this Bill gets through. It will make a real difference to people in precarious work and on low pay. I wish to highlight that. I am looking forward to it.

  I also wish to highlight a report that was published yesterday. It has already received a great deal of support but I recommend that everyone reads, it regardless of party. I refer to Cherishing All Equally, the 2019 report of the Think-tank for Action on Social Change, TASC. It is a report on inequality in Europe and Ireland. I will mention a couple of statistics and call for a debate on the topic. Some 24% of Irish people are at risk of poverty. That is quite a shocking statistic. This is only surpassed by eastern European states. One in every four children in Ireland is at risk of poverty. We are now an outlier in Europe for low pay. The bottom 40% of Irish workers take home a 22% share of national income, while the top 10% take 25%.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell On a point of order, I would like to ask my honourable colleague who wrote the report.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan That is no problem. It is an important question. The report was written by TASC, the Think-tank for Action on Social Change. It is a very academic and well-respected report. The launch was well attended yesterday. I saw colleagues from the Labour Party and Sinn Féin there, as well as Independents. I want to draw attention to it because we have a massive problem with inequality in Ireland, and this report tells us it is getting worse. That is why we need a debate on the topic. We should all accept that inequality is a major problem in our society. We should take steps to debate it fairly and openly to come up with proper solutions to improve the status of those on the lowest incomes in our society.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The debate on the Senator's Bill is at 6.15 p.m., not 6 p.m.

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

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins In respect of the issue Senator Leyden raised this morning, I would like to emphasise strongly that funding is being put in place this year to commence the design process of the Sacred Heart Hospital project.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Hear, hear.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins It is really important that we see progress on it, and I am very happy to stand over my work on this issue.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Hear, hear. Senator Hopkins delivers for Roscommon.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins I want to raise a very serious issue. This morning we heard that a further 57 families have received an apology from the HSE in respect of audiology failures. I have been working very closely with a number of the families affected. Some 49 families got an apology last June. Some 106 families have been affected by audiology misdiagnosis. I know many of these families because they have contacted me. I have been working with those parents since last August to set up cross-departmental supports to ensure that these children, who have had a difficult start, are able to access their full potential. This involves a working group with representation from the Department of Health, the Department of Education and Skills, because a lot of the challenges are in the area of education supports, and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

  We are not seeing the progress we need in supporting these children and their parents, who have been failed by the HSE and the State. I have a lot more to say on it and I would like a debate on the matter in this House. Finally, we need to see evidence of accountability for these failings. This morning we have seen an additional 57 cases of misdiagnosis. We are told that this audiologist is no longer working in the catchment area of community healthcare organisation, CHO, 2. I want to know if this individual has been brought to account, because I have not seen any evidence of this. These parents are genuine people who want the best for their children and we are not seeing progress on this issue.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys Informal meetings of EU trade Ministers will take place tomorrow, 21 February. I understand it is proposed to advance two negotiating mandates for trade talks with the United States of America. This is despite the US President's position on withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The position set out by the EU Commission and EU leaders in 2018 was that real commitment to climate action and the Paris Agreement is a precondition to any trade deal providing access to EU markets. I ask the Leader to send a message to the Minister that we need to put our money where our mouth is. We must hold the line and show leadership.  I ask the Leader to request that the Minister attends this House when he comes back from the meeting to outline the Irish position at those discussions.

  I have raised the issue of attracting high skilled workers from across the world and how we treat their partners and families several times in this House. Often those partners and families arrive with a stamp 1 visa but it can take up to 14 weeks to get a stamp 3 visa and that is even before they can apply for a job. If we are to seek people to come to work and live in Ireland and contribute to the economy and society, we should at least deal with and treat their partners fairly. A 14-week delay is unacceptable to me. We would give out and we would argue strongly if that was the way Irish people were being treated abroad but this is how we are treating people whom we have asked to come to work and live in Ireland, yet we treat their family and partners in this manner. I ask the Leader to bring in the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, at her earliest convenience to discuss this. She is the Minister responsible because the 14-week delay occurs in her Department, even though on several occasions her officials have denied this in respect of legislation.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I would like to raise the issue of communications and broadband, which is essential for all people now, particularly as they go about their daily lives, whether it is through business or grant forms and even for quality of life. Eir reports data to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on ongoing rural fibre deployment in accordance with the commitment agreement signed with the Department in April 2017. It is not funded by the State and not planned, designed or directed by the Department in any capacity, according to quarter 3 2018 figures provided by Eir to the Department. The company has passed over 200,000 premises as part of its ongoing deployment and I had a lady in my clinic the other day who said it is called low hanging fruit if no easy access can be found.

  My concern is not with the deployment of this, however. Some 180 towns and cities will benefit from the massive fixed network investment programme announced by Eir. This is good news for the many and in my area it is great to get this kind of connection. My concern is with Eir and its communication with its customers. Eir was taken over by an investment consortium in April 2018. If we are trusting it with deploying rural broadband to the country, we need to look at how it is treating its existing customers. Eir customers are currently facing longer than normal and much longer than acceptable wait times when contacting the customer care call centre. They are often told to go online to web chat, only to then be told to go back on the phone. Many more have complained that Eir's service is not working and they cannot get out of a contract. Others complain that reported faults are never fixed, despite promises that technicians will come out. Hundreds of customers have complained to national newspapers and to social media. Are we to expect this kind of customer service when the massive fixed network investment programme is completed? The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment needs to come into this Chamber to reassure us that customers will be treated better in future. We cannot allow this to happen. This is very serious for rural Ireland. We need to make sure that rural Ireland gets this service. I welcome this as well but we need to make sure it is done properly.

  I second Senator Leyden's amendment.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I want to raise the issue of supervisors and assistant supervisors on community employment, CE, schemes. In Cork last Monday, there was a protest outside the offices of Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in respect of a Mandate decision in July 2008. There was a recommendation that supervisors and assistant supervisors would be brought in under a pension scheme. In fairness to them, they are successful in helping people on these schemes to return to work and provide a valuable service at local level. SOLAS will argue that because they are not directly employed by the organisation, it has no responsibility in funding the pension they wish to join. On the other hand, all those who are employing the supervisors and assistant supervisors under the CE schemes are in voluntary organisations which do not have significant resources to dip into and, therefore, do not have adequate funding to cover these people in pension schemes. This matter needs to be dealt with because the schemes have worked very well in local communities over a long period and they have also worked for people who have found it difficult to get employment. It is something that we cannot allow to go on for another ten years and it should be dealt with. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister dealing with this matter to come into the House and give a response to it because I do not believe it can be left in the current position.

  I want to respond to Senator Leyden and his issue with the €100 million. He should remember that it is €100 million out of €7 billion, which is equivalent to €100 out of €7,000. It is the same situation. We have €7 billion in spending money for projects this year. When we took over in 2011, there was no money for capital projects. We have turned that around and we will go on and make sure that all of the capital projects that we have identified-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Hear, hear.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden The Minister will have no problem.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke -----will proceed and will be delivered on. This is the reality. We have identified the projects which will be affected by the €100 million cut. They are clearly identified and they are set out in writing

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden The Government should name the projects. It should be upfront and honest and tell the truth.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield Before Christmas, members of the Seanad reform implementation group published a report with legislation about how to give effect to the proposals in the Manning report. The legislation proposed alongside the report, if implemented, would mean a radical change in all of the elections that we face, and it would be a damning indictment of all Senators if we fail to commence that legislative process in reforming this House in this Government term. There is a clear appetite for reform. During Question Time last week, the Taoiseach indicated that not only had the Cabinet failed to discuss the report, but that he was not in favour of the proposals and then he failed to give a commitment about when the Seanad Bill would be brought forward. He also stated that Sinn Féin dissented on the report, which was not the case. Sinn Féin fully endorsed the report and we think it could go further. There was a general indifference from An Taoiseach when he was discussing the report and a lack of willingness to endorse the proposals and to bring them forward. I am reminded that yesterday the Leader accused Sinn Féin of having no sense of how to fix or solve anything and that we do not accept responsibility. No party engaged more in Seanad reform in the preparation of that Bill than Sinn Féin did so the Government should bring the Bill forward and we will see which parties are destructive. It will be those who oppose political reform-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer That is an easy one for the Senator. Take the free ball and run with it.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield It will not be Sinn Féin.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I support Senator McFadden's statement on the quorum. We could do our business in a more professional manner. It does not make a lot of sense for one of us, as a Member of Parliament, to be leaving a committee to come here for a minute, leave again and go back to our committee. It is nonsensical and a sensible proposal has been suggested.

  I have been doing some research on consumer law in the EU and domestically when it comes to online contracts, in particular those that pertain to airlines. Under the EU directive on consumer rights, consumers are entitled to a 14-day cooling off period for any purchases online for any reason. There is an anomaly, however, when it comes to airlines. They are a different business to many other online providers but a 24-hour cooling off period should apply to airlines for non-immediate flights. Simple mistakes or spelling errors can cause people expense and worry about their travel, and older people are often less adept at dealing with these issues online. Airlines are outliers in this area and the small print and terms and conditions are often dense and intentionally vague. Introducing a 24-hour cooling off period would result in a more transparent and fair process.  Some airlines have introduced such measures, so the technology clearly exists. I hope we might get the opportunity to discuss this with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, in the House soon.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher There are just about 37 days left until Brexit and the uncertainty intensifies by the day. The everyday impacts of a hard Brexit are becoming clear to the public. Last Monday, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, outlined potential knock-on effects for the alarm system currently allowing elderly people to stay in their homes. The seniors alert scheme provides funding for personal monitored alarms. That system allows people over 65 years old to stay in their homes. The scheme has been a great success for many people throughout rural Ireland. It gives a sense of security, contentment and peace of mind. If something unforeseen happens to a person, pressing the alarm button will ensure someone comes to his or her aid.

  The Minister's comments are alarming. I was contacted by a number of people earlier seeking solace and reassurance from the Government regarding the issues raised by him. The main issue is that much of the equipment used under the seniors alert scheme is sourced in the UK. There may be issues with that supply in the event of a hard Brexit. It sends out a clear message that the Government needs to be alert now and Ministers need to be on the ball in their Departments. It is important to investigate an alternative source for that equipment in another country. I call on the Leader to ensure the Minister and his Department are on the ball in doing that. Sourcing another supplier for the system in another state will give peace of mind. Those who have the system will know there will be no issues with it and those seeking the system will not have to worry about their equipment in future. The system is of great benefit and reassurance to many people living in their homes, especially those living alone in rural Ireland.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I compliment An Post on its decision to go all electric with its postal delivery fleet throughout the country by 2022. By 2020, electrification will be extended to the cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick, Kilkenny and Waterford. This is a great decision by the company. By the end of 2019, Dublin city postal deliveries will be all be made by electric vehicles and electric bicycles. I also compliment the Houses of the Oireachtas Service on having two charging points in the grounds of Leinster House for electric vehicles. Those can also be used by An Post. The company has made a great decision and the Leader, at some stage, might invite the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, to the House for a discussion to determine where we are at and where we are going with electric vehicles. We might also discuss the incentives available to households. We could have a good debate on those issues. I see a problem down the line, however, for the financing of major industries and industrial projects. Green finance will be the way forward. The greener a project, the easier it will be to secure funding in future. Dirty industrial projects will probably find it harder to secure finance as well. Those are all areas on which we could have a good discussion with the Minister in the near future.

Senator Tim Lombard: Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard I wish to raise the issue of the future of the beef industry, a topic I have raised previously. There has been great upset and turmoil in the industry in the past six to eight months. Since Christmas, in particular, there has not been a major increase in price. That has been a major issue throughout rural Ireland. The key reason there has been no increase in price is the large number of cattle killed in Ireland. At one stage, 40,000 animals a week were being killed. That is extraordinarily high compared to the numbers usually killed. Traditionally, 20,000 to 30,000 animals were killed. Much of the increase relates to the expansion of the dairy herd, as well as Friesian bull calves coming through the system. Those changes are depressing the price because there is only a certain demand for beef. Unless we move large numbers of Friesian bull calves in the next few weeks, this cycle will continue in two years when those cattle will be finished. We can move more than 80,000 animals a week off of the island using ferry services and hauliers. It needs to be ensure that those animals are moved. There is a market for them in France but there is a problem in Cherbourg with lairage. That problem needs to be examined.

  This industry is a key part of rural Ireland. Rural Ireland will slowly die away unless we support the industry. We need a debate with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Deputy Creed. He needs to have a round-table discussion, not particularly with us, but with the transport people, the lairage owners and departmental officials on how the blockage in the system can be removed. That must be done to ensure animals can be transported. The knock-on effect will be to reduce our national herd but also to increase the monetary return to farmers.

   There has been a large increase in production following the Food Wise 2025 initiative but profitability at the farm gate has gone in the opposite direction. Farmers are working harder to produce more to earn less. That is not viable. We need a debate on this issue. I appreciate I am over time and I will finish on this. The beef industry is at a crossroads. Without major change, I fear for the state of the industry in three or four years.

Senator Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan I condemn An Post for its decision to close the post office in Gurteen, south Sligo. This was on the cards for some months. The local communities rallied together and got a reprieve for a month. Everything possible was done to increase footfall and attract more customers. An Post has gone back on its word, however, and the post office will now close at the end of February. It is regrettable that while a community entered into negotiations with An Post and did all that was possible to increase footfall and bring in extra customers, An Post has not listened to the community and, indeed, to many politicians.

  Senator Leyden referred to the Sacred Heart Hospital nursing home in Roscommon. I was part of a Government that secured funding of €9 million for that facility.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Hear, hear. Where has it gone?

Senator Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan There was some €16 million for St. Patrick’s Community Hospital in Carrick-on-Shannon. I have raised this issue twice during Commencement matters. Based on my dealings with Roscommon hospital, I know how much of an inconvenience it is for the management to carry out this development. However, it has to be done. The Government cannot just grant funding and demand that the hospital be built. There has to be consultation with management and staff. In nursing homes in Boyle, Castlerea and many other locations, where the bell was ringing over the past ten years, management and staff sought and acquired funding. Funding, therefore, can be provided but these facilities will not be built unless the management in those nursing homes decides to get a team together, get an appraisal and source a design feasibility study as well as cost estimates.

  It behoves all the stakeholders to work together. All the Government can do is to provide the funding. The funding for this project has been ring-fenced in the national development plan, NDP, which runs from 2017 to 2021. It is projected to be complete by 2022. I reiterate to Senator Leyden that I know from Roscommon hospital how much of an inconvenience it is to work with all stakeholders to build such facilities. It has, however, to be done. It is not possible to build something without cracking a few eggs. I ask all of the stakeholders to come together to deliver this project. The Government, however, can only do so much. We can provide the funding. That is unlike 2012 and 2013 when there was none. We can, however, only do so much. The management teams have to-----

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

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Let the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, come in later today to explain that. I would like that.

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the 20 Members of the House for their contributions to the Order of Business. The issue of JobPath was raised by Senators Ardagh and Conway-Walsh.  Some 41,000 people who participated in the job activation programme are in full-time work and 5,000 others are in part-time work. The programme has worked. The contract for the current programme expires in 2019 for new referrals and a decision on its future will be made at the end of this year. I will be happy to have the Minister come to the House for a debate on the programme.

  I welcome the Senator Ardagh-Sinn Féin love-in today, which is in contrast to what we saw yesterday. I wonder what way the political wind will blow tomorrow.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden The Seanad is not sitting tomorrow.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I join Senator Ardagh in commending Deirdre Clune, MEP, on her remarks around the use of wet wipes. I agree that they are not biodegradable or in any way helpful to the environment. On the issue raised by Senator Craughwell-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am listening.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Gabh mo leithscéal?

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator will have an opportunity next week to have a debate with the Minister for Defence on the Defence Forces and the Air Corps.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Excellent.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer In regard to the quorum-----

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson The Taoiseach is the Minister for Defence.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer No, the Minister with responsibility for Defence is Deputy Paul Kehoe. The Taoiseach will come to the House as well in-----

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer There was a full moon this week. The remnants must be falling far from the-----

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson The Taoiseach is the Minister for Defence.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell In fairness, he is not the Minister for Defence.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I was responding to the issues raised by Senator Craughwell. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges, CPP, had a good discussion yesterday on the use of the quorum and the numbers required for a quorum. Senator Craughwell seems to be fixated on a narrow prism through his eyes of the quorum under the guise of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill and the filibustering employed by himself and others during the last couple of sessions of the House. The quorum reduction proposed by the CPP is in keeping with the Dáil reduction in its quorum number.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell This stroke was pulled in the Dáil as well.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please. Senator Craughwell has had his say.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Craughwell is here long enough to know how the business works. I know he thinks the Independent group is the fulcrum around which everything else revolves.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am glad the Leader recognises it.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The CPP represents all Members of the Seanad. As I said, we had a very good discussion at yesterday's meeting of the CPP. The facility about which Senator Craughwell speaks so passionately and which he wants to protect and preserve is not being done away with. The Senator will still be able to call a quorum whenever he so desires. That facility is not being diluted or taken away and so his contribution this morning around the quorum was, in part, misguided. I reassure the Senator that he will still have the opportunity to call a quorum. The point that has been made-----

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell The Senator wants there to be enough people to listen to him.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer That is a different matter. Some day, God forbid other Members of the House will be where Senator McFadden is-----

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Not, God forbid; God willing.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer -----and they will have to, as Senator Wilson did, provide a quorum not for the purpose raised by Senator Craughwell but to have the business of the day commence. The point being made by people on this side of the House is that a quorum should not be just the responsibility of Government, although it is. We are in a minority situation and therefore there is an obligation on all sides of the House to ensure that the sitting of the day commences. Senator Craughwell being all for new politics will embrace that.

  I commend Senators Ruane and Nash on their remarks this morning around protecting and upholding the human rights of our most vulnerable people. This is a matter that requires urgent attention and ongoing inspection. I understand the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, carries out regular inspections of our nursing homes. The point the Senators made is very important. I am happy to engage with them on the provision of a series of debates on the issue.

  Senator Conway-Walsh raised the issue of Spinraza. I do not have information to hand in regard to the matter she raised this morning on the Order of Business. Senators Conway-Walsh and Hopkins raised the audiology issues in the west. It is unacceptable that there has been a breakdown in supports to young children and their families. As Senator Hopkins rightly said there is need for cross-departmental engagement by the Departments of Education and Skills, Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Health, and the HSE in terms of accountability and to address the pathway to services for the young people and families who have been failed, notwithstanding that the HSE has apologised. Senator Hopkins made a very telling contribution around the audiologist, whether that person remains in the employment of the HSE and, if so, in what area this person is employed.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh We know where he is. That is not the issue. It is the governance that is at issue.

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 am not disagreeing with Senator Conway-Wash.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ask the Senators to speak through the Chair.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We can come into this House and be critical of people or entities but we need to do so in a manner that is constructive. As Senator Hopkins rightly said, it is important that a strategy is put in place to work with the families on a pathway to services for young people. I reiterate my support in that regard.

  Senator Nash raised the issue of migrant workers, in particular migrant fisherman. The point he made is important and I will endeavour to provide time for a debate on the issue of exploitation.

  Senator O'Reilly commended the Minister, Deputy Ring, on the introduction of the rural regeneration grants. We all commend the Minister, Deputy Ring, on his recent announcement in that regard and on the importance and priority he places on rural Ireland.

  Senator Leyden-----

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Anseo.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell He is outside interpreting.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer To be honest, I do not know where to begin.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Leader should be as concise as possible.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I want to commend Senator Feighan, who is not here. I recall when Senator Leyden was in government there was a former Independent Deputy named Tom Fox, who was elected on foot of the Roscommon hospital issue, which highlighted the failure of the Fianna Fáil Government of which Senator Leyden was a member to invest in Roscommon hospital. Thankfully, subsequent to that we had the arrival of Senators Feighan and Hopkins to the Oireachtas, who have ensured there is investment in Roscommon hospital. As Senator Leyden knows, it is busier now than it ever was previously.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden It would not be there had I not been around at the time.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer As stated by Senator Hopkins the funding for the design process for the Sacred Heart Hospital has been put in place. The HSE has confirmed that construction of the 50 bed residential care unit is expected to commence in late 2020. We should be focused on the overall capital spend. It is important to make the point that no project will be cancelled as a result of the reprofiling around the national children's hospital. Under Project Ireland 2040, the Government's €160 billion capital investment plan is under way, is on time and it will deliver. Unlike the Fianna Fáil Party-----

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt How can the Leader say that?

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor There are so many projects that are waiting 20 years.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I can say it because-----

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt With respect, the Leader cannot say that. He has zero credibility.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor As I said, there are many projects waiting to be commenced. The Holy Angels project has been on the shortlist for ten years.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Murnane O'Connor please be quiet; you have had your say.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor It is the biggest load----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ask Members to listen to each other with respect. I call the Leader to continue without interruption, please.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I recall the great plan of Charlie McCreevy for decentralisation. Where stands that?

(Interruptions).

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I recall the sale of Eircom. Who did that? It was Mary O'Rourke. Do Members opposite remember the e-voting machines and what the cost was in that regard?

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Keep going.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer What about PPARS? Who was responsible for that? It was Bertie Ahern and the then Minister for Health, Deputy Micheál Martin.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor They are being relaunched.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will not allow this re-run of issues. I call the Leader to continue without interruption.

(Interruptions).

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Murnane O'Connor forgot about the €40 million overspend in regard to the Mater Hospital plans for the national children's hospital under the watch of Bertie Ahern. I know that Fianna Fáil wants to airbrush him from Fianna Fáil history and I understand why but they should not come in here and lecture us.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden What about the VAT on children's shoes?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Fianna Fáil should not be lecturing us.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden What about the stay at home housewives?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Allow the Leader to continue without further interruption.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I believe the full moon is having a bigger effect on the Leader than others.

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

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Did the Leader see the report on those who are now called the working poor?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer A Leas-Chathaoirligh, they do not want to hear the good news.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I could provide a copy-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I encourage the Leader to move on.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer They do not want to hear the good news but they will have to listen to it because it is factual. We now have the largest number of people ever to have worked in the history of our country. When Fianna Fáil left government, the unemployment rate was at 15%.

(Interruptions).

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer There were people from Senator Murnane O'Connor's home town, Carlow, on boats and planes emigrating. Shame on Fianna Fáil. They should put up their hands and admit they were wrong.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Did the Leader see the TASC report?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Look at the way in which the country is being rescued today. We have the greatest number employed today.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell On a point of order, the Leader should know it is great to have that number working but quite a significant number are living in income poverty.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Craughwell knows well that is not a point of order.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I inform Senator Craughwell that under this Government and its predecessor, the minimum wage was increased three times? He should ask himself whether he voted for it?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I forced it during my time as president of a union.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I have the Senator's texts about consulting on votes.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I encourage the Leader to wind up.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I commend Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell on her contribution on the Order of Business. The points she makes on culture and heritage are actually very important and should not be just glossed over in an Order of Business reply. I would be happy to have a debate on the points she makes. What we must learn from our past is that we must prepare and plan. This involves a combination of culture, heritage and biodiversity, about which the Senator spoke. Linked to this matter is Senator Humphreys's request for a rolling debate on climate change, an important issue. We have agreed to it.

  I commend Senator McFadden for raising the need for more remote working, working from home and part-time work. I would be happy if the Minister could come to the House regarding that.

  Senator Gavan raised today's Private Members' motion. We will debate this in our debate on the TASC report. We have all read the report. We should reflect upon it but it is, in itself, selective in what it presents. It does not take notice of the fact that Ireland has one of the highest average incomes and lowest levels of precarious employment in the European Union. The report acknowledges the role the State plays in addressing income inequality through the system of social transfers and a progressive taxation system. It does not make reference to the fact that the national minimum wage, which is determined based on recommendations of the Low Pay Commission, provides a measure of security for the low paid. Equally, it does not show in its clear form the supports and security measures put in place under the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. I would be happy to have the debate in the House at a later time.

  On Senator Humphreys's remarks, I would be happy to have the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport come to the House after the EU meeting. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, has been very clear about Ireland's responsibilities regarding carbon-----

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I was not sure from the Senator's contribution who he was referring to. I believe he referred to trade Ministers.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The trade Minister.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer He is the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys It is to sanction-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I would be happy to have the debate.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I believed the Leader was well informed on these issues.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I will ignore the Senator.

  Senator Murnane O'Connor, as part of her contribution on the Order of Business, raised the issue of broadband. She should look at the task force report published. Does she want to heckle me now or will I finish? She is about to start.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Please, no interruptions.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I will let the Leader finish.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Members opposite should not be encouraged.

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Member opposite fails to recognise that 1,000 km of fibre-optic cable have been laid. There is a commitment to have 400,000 businesses hooked up. There is a commitment to activate 135 live stations this year. As the Senator knows, the task force is quite clear on what is required. I refer to the action points. The national mobile phone map is live. ComReg is working on that. The Minister is meeting Eir this week to discuss the matter. The Senator will know that it was her party, when in government, that sold off Eircom, which delayed the national broadband strategy by a generation.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Fine Gael signed up two years ago.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Stop.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Colm Burke raised the issue of the CE scheme supervisors and the industrial action this week. There is a review being undertaken by the Departments responsible for social protection and finance. The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection answered questions on this during a Commencement debate. I would be happy to have her come to the House to debate the matter again.

  Senator Warfield raised the issue of Seanad reform. As he will be well aware, there is no unanimity on the reform of Seanad Éireann. The report published by the implementation group has gone to the Government. It is awaiting a Government comment, followed by action or inaction, depending on its decision. With regard to the report, the Taoiseach is committed to Seanad reform, as we all are in this House. The type of Seanad reform is for further debate and consultation.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield We have a Bill on which there is unanimity. It is signed off.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer There is not unanimity on the Bill.

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We do not have unanimity on the Bill. We have a report that was produced and agreed by an Oireachtas sub-committee of both Houses. As to what happens down the line, however, that is for further discussion. I do hope we will have Seanad reform, and I am committed to it. As to whether it is the same type of reform the Senator wants, that is a different issue.

  I commend Senator Noone on her work on the EU consumer law on aviation. Her point on cooling off is worth considering and should be brought into effect.

  Senator Gallagher raised the important issue of senior alerts. The Minister, Deputy Ring, as part of his wide-ranging interview in the Irish Examiner, said he was considering alternative sources for the senior alerts. It is important that we do not try to scare people in our commentary on Brexit. The issue of senior alerts is one whose importance we all understand but let us not all get hysterical over it. Let us hope we can-----

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I did not.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I was not saying the Senator was.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher On a point of information, perhaps the Leader might refer those comments to the Minister in question, not to me.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It must be the full moon. The Senator is very sensitive this morning. He is very much under pressure.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I am not sensitive.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Tóg go bog é. Will I say again what I said to the Senator?

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I heard him the first time. That is why I made the comment.

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer What I said was-----

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher What the Leader said was that people should not be scaremongering. I said that the Leader should perhaps refer that comment to the Minister, Deputy Ring.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I said "people", not Senator Gallagher.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Chair is not responsible for content but we must listen to one another.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I did not refer to the Senator specifically; I said "people".

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher Perhaps the Leader should refer to the Minister in question and name him.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I commend Senator Paddy Burke on his contribution on the electric fleet of An Post and green finance. I commend Senator Reilly, who was instrumental in the installation of the charging points at the back of Leinster House. It is important.

  Senator Lombard raised the issue of beef. It is a very sensitive time for those in the beef industry. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, is very much aware of that. I would be happy to have him come to the House.

  Senator Feighan raised the issues concerning Roscommon hospital and Gurteen post office in Sligo.

  I will not be accepting Senator Leyden's amendment to the Order of Business.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Leyden has proposed an amendment, "That No. 3 not be taken today and that a debate with the Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on the consequences for the capital investment plan of the cost overrun at the national children's hospital be taken in its stead." The amendment has been seconded. Is it being pressed?

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Very much so because we have-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator does not have to elaborate. Is it being pressed?

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden It is-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator you have had your say. I have asked you if the amendment is being pressed.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I want to explain why.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I do not need your explanation.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden You do not seem to understand, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

  Amendment put.

   The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Some of our colleagues seem confused as to how they were voting. This proposal was to bring the Minister for Finance to the House to discuss where the cutbacks are going to be made to public projects as a result of the overrun on the children's hospital. To facilitate them, under Standing Order 62(3)(b) I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Amendment again put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 24.

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 Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.
Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
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 Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
Information on Gerry Horkan   Zoom on Gerry Horkan   Horkan, Gerry. Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura.
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin. Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry. Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.
Information on Ian Marshall   Zoom on Ian Marshall   Marshall, Ian. Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer. Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald. Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn. Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  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 Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.
  Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gerry Horkan and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.

Amendment declared lost.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the Order of Business agreed?

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden No. I want the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 to be taken before discussion on cutbacks.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator should resume his seat. If Members want to have a conversation they can have it outside the Chamber.

  Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."

  The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan As a teller, to make sure everyone understands what they are doing, some people may have been confused and others not here who were here earlier, but under Standing Order 62(3)(b) I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Question again put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."

The Seanad divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 14.

Níl
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine.
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray. Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.
Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie. Information on Paul Daly   Zoom on Paul Daly   Daly, Paul.
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose. Information on Aidan Davitt   Zoom on Aidan Davitt   Davitt, Aidan.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie.
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire. Information on Gerry Horkan   Zoom on Gerry Horkan   Horkan, Gerry.
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank. Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul. Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry.
Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim. Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald.
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Ian Marshall   Zoom on Ian Marshall   Marshall, Ian.  
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 Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Gerry Horkan and Diarmuid Wilson.

Question declared carried.

Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Before proceeding with item No. 1, I welcome to the Public Gallery Councillor Pa O'Driscoll, Simone Kavanagh and all our visitors. They are very welcome.

Report of Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the amendment of Standing Orders 19, 20, 51 and 65: Motion

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

That the report be adopted and laid before the House.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Is that agreed?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Not agreed.

  Question put and declared carried.

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages

  Sections 1 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.

  Title agreed to.

  Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.

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

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway This very important legislation would not have come about if it had not been for the Minister of State, Deputy Moran. It is a fantastic example of a citizen who has an issue approaching a public representative, such as a Member of the Houses. It proves that it does happen and we can make a difference. It sends a message to people out there who might be cynical about politics, and to young people who aspire to be politicians. Today proves that one can make a difference if one becomes a Member of the national Parliament and introduces a Private Members' Bill which becomes the law of the land. When President Higgins signs the Bill into law, the Minister of State can be very proud of what he has achieved.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile I reiterate what has been said by my colleague. I commend the Minister of State on the passing of this legislation. We expressed some minor concerns about it and we believe we can go even further in terms of sentencing guidelines around this issue and other, broader issues. There are some anomalies, to which I referred at earlier stages of the debate, around the law on incest, which probably require further consideration. We have supported the Bill and my colleague, Deputy Ó Laoghaire, has worked constructively with the Minister of State and others on it. It is important legislation, particularly when one considers the heinous nature of the crimes with which it seeks to deal. Comhghairdeas agus maith thú.

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran I thank all Senators for the warm welcome that the Bill has received in this House and I am deeply honoured that it has now passed all Stages in the Oireachtas. As I mentioned on the previous occasion, I was honoured to be elected as an Independent Deputy some three years ago to represent the people of Longford-Westmeath and to go into Government. Throughout my political life, I have tried to make a difference to the lives of ordinary people and make them a little bit better. It is a rather simple philosophy of mine but I think I have achieved a lot by sticking to that ideal. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2018 is part of my efforts to help people, in this case, to send out a clear message from Government regarding repeat serial sex offenders who have refused all efforts to rehabilitate themselves.

  While it is rare that an Independent Deputy can champion legislation through the Dáil and Seanad - I believe I may be the first to do so - it is even rarer still to have such legislation pass through both Houses with the support of all the main political parties. I also received very good news yesterday in respect of the other Bill that I have campaigned for in government, which addresses those in mortgage arrears and, I understand, this will soon advance to the next Stage.

  I thank the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, and his officials for their strong support throughout for this Bill and for seeing the merits in what I have been trying to achieve. I have shown to the people that Independents can, and do, make a difference in government. I thank all Senators for their support and for the clear passage they have given this Bill. It means a great deal to an awful lot of people who have been campaigning for this for many years. Senator Conway is right that people are cynical about politicians but when we sit down and work together, it is amazing what we can achieve. The likes of Debbie Coll are the real champions of this. They have been lobbying hard for this Bill and having it signed into law is a great achievement, for me as a new Member of the House and for Debbie, who has pursued it.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I congratulate the Minister of State on this achievement and I wish him well with his other Bill.

  Question put and agreed to.

  Sitting suspended at 1.40 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.

  3 o’clock

Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Notwithstanding anything in today's Order of Business, it is proposed that No. 4 will be taken at 7 p.m. and will adjourn no later than 9 p.m., if not previously concluded.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Is the business being moved back by an hour?

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden By three quarters of an hour.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Is there a particular reason for this?

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden To facilitate the Minister.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Does it impact on the debate we are about to have?

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Absolutely not.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Is that agreed? Agreed.

Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 41

  Debate resumed on amendment No. 86h:

In page 28, line 29, after "office" to insert the following:
"(other than the office of the Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal, President of the High Court, President of the Circuit Court or President of the District Court)".

- (Senator Michael McDowell)

Acting Chairman: (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Senator Craughwell was in possession.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I welcome the Minister back to the House to discuss the Bill. Yesterday, we spoke about the issue of judicial vacancies and recommendations from the commission of persons for appointment. The section states:

(1) Subsection (2) applies where—
(a) more than one judicial office in the same court stands vacant, or

(b) the following conditions are satisfied—
(i) the Minister reasonably apprehends that more than one judicial office in the same court will stand vacant, and

(ii) the Commission has received a request of the Minister (which request shall be addressed to the Commission and which, by virtue of this subsection, the Minister has power to make) that the recommendation referred to in subsection (2) be made.
(2) Where this subsection applies, the Commission shall, in accordance with this Act, recommend to the Minister, in respect of the judicial offices concerned, the names of such number of persons as is equal to the relevant number ranked in the order of the Commission’s preference (and that expression of preference shall not make any distinction between the several vacancies concerned).

(3) In subsection (2) "relevant number" means the number obtained by multiplying by 2 the number of vacancies (or apprehended vacancies), and adding one to the product.

As we heard yesterday, section 41(3) would mean there would be five names for two vacancies and seven names for three vacancies. The amendment Senators McDowell and Boyhan and I have proposed seeks to ring-fence the offices of the Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal, President of the High Court, President of the Circuit Court and President of the District Court. I may be mistaken but yesterday I got the impression from the Minister that he would be somewhat favourably disposed to making this amendment.

  Prior to debating the amendment, we had just finished a debate on the trickle-down effect in which we had been trying to outline the problem of trickle down. In the case of this amendment, we did not want to mix up different expertise or requirements. The appointment of the Chief Justice may require a set of skills that may not necessarily be commensurate with the appointment of an ordinary member of the Supreme Court. From this point of view, we seek to ensure that these appointments are made discretely one by one and that, regardless of other vacancies, if a vacancy arose in the role of Chief Justice, it would be filled in its own right. It makes perfect sense when we look at the structure of the courts that we would ensure we did not seek to fill from the same pool the commission had interviewed the role of an ordinary member of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice. From this point of view, we hope the Minister will accept the amendment and what we are trying to do.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am pleased to resume debate on the amendment. I remind the Senators that the policy of the Bill was to have a separate dedicated process in respect of senior judicial offices, namely, the Chief Justice, President of the High Court and President of the Court of Appeal, as was proposed in the original section 46 of the Bill. I have no difficulty with this aspect of the amendment insofar as it relates to what we can describe, and what we have been describing, as the three most senior judicial posts. I say this in the context of the overall architecture of the legislation, working from section 37 serving as a general explanatory provision to the effect that chapters 1 and 2 of Part 7 do not apply to procedures in respect of certain senior positions. The three senior judicial posts are provided for separately in section 44 of chapter 3 of this Part. There is, therefore, no necessity to have an exclusion in any part of chapter 2 that makes reference to the posts addressed in chapter 3, that is, in section 44.  We have covered previously this issue of the disapplication of certain provisions to the three exceptionally senior positions. We dealt with it the previous day. It will not come as news to Senators that we need to do further work to section 44 on Report Stage.

  There is also a new aspect in amendment No. 86h which is further to what I stated already. The proposal to remove the offices of all the courts' presidents from the commission process, including the lower courts, is new. I already indicated that I will come back with amendments to section 44 on Report Stage. I acknowledge what Senators McDowell and Craughwell have said in that regard. I want to see what I can do to expand the section 44 provision and I will consider that for Report Stage. I am not sure whether Senator Craughwell is minded to withdraw the amendment in the meantime with a reservation of right on his behalf and on the part of Senator McDowell as well to come back on Report Stage in the event of them not being happy with what I bring forward. I ask that the House does not divide at this stage, having regard to the fact that there is not much between us.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am grateful to the Minister for his willingness to re-examine the section. What we set out to achieve with the amendment was to prevent the commission from presenting to the Government a preferential ranking of prospective judicial nominees for the positions of Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal, President of the High Court, President of the Circuit Court and President of the District Court. In light of the Minister's acknowledgement that there is an issue to be dealt with, for which I am grateful, it behoves me and my colleagues to withdraw amendment No. 86h, with the proviso that we will reintroduce it on Report Stage if we are unhappy with what the Minister brings forward. The Minister has indicated a willingness to examine that area and I thank him for that. I will formally withdraw the amendment.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I move amendment No. 87:

In page 29, line 3, after "concerned" to insert the following:
", having regard to the objective that the membership of the judiciary should comprise equal numbers of women and men".

Senator Bacik stated she wishes to withdraw that amendment but wants liberty to re-enter it on Report Stage. Having moved it, I will withdraw it.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Section 41 agreed to.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Are we speaking on the section now?

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway It was agreed.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It was agreed.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am sorry it slipped by me there. I would have liked to have spoken on the section but we have agreed it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I asked if it was agreed and I thought all Senators agreed to it.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway It was agreed.

NEW SECTIONS

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendments Nos. 87a and 87b, in Senators McDowell, Boyhan and Craughwell's names, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I move amendment No. 87a:

In page 29, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

"Notifications to Government

42. In every case where the Commission makes a recommendation to the Government in respect of any appointment to judicial office, the Commission shall also notify the Government of the names of all persons who—
(a) applied to the Commission in respect of that appointment,

(b) were persons whom the Commission considered to be eligible persons in accordance with the requirements of section 35, and

(c) were not included among the persons recommended by the Commission in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.".

In amendment No. 87b, in page 29, between lines 8 and 9, we wish to insert the following provision:

In every case where the Commission makes any recommendation to the Government in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, the Commission shall inform each of the persons applying to the Commission in respect of the judicial appointment in question—
(a) whether the person was or was not among those persons recommended by the Commission to the Government in respect of that appointment, and

(b) whether, if it were the case, the Commission considered that the person was not eligible for appointment by reason of the requirements of section 35,
and in any case where the Commission cannot make any recommendation the Commission shall notify all persons who applied to the Commission in respect of that appointment that it made no recommendation.

The objective of this amendment is to ensure that a person who applies to be recommended by the commission is informed as to whether he or she was or was not recommended. The secondary objective concerns providing information of where section 35 has applied to exclude persons who otherwise might have been selected but for the section 35 criteria. Section 35 states: "In addition to the requirement of sections 7 and 36 and subsection (2) and (where it applies) subsection (3), the Commission shall not recommend the name of a person to the Minister unless it is satisfied that the requirements of the relevant provisions are complied with in relation to the person." The relevant provisions are set out in subsection (6).

  Section 7 states that a decision to recommend to include somebody on the shortlist of three "shall be based on merit." It further states:

Subject to subsection (1), where the function, under this Act, of selecting and recommending persons for appointment to a judicial office falls to be performed, regard shall be had to—
(a) the objective that the membership of the judiciary should comprise equal numbers of men and women[.]

That is the first proposal, namely, that there should be numerical equality between men and women as far as possible.

  Section 7 also states that regard should be had to "the objective that the membership of the judiciary should, to the extent feasible and practicable, reflect the diversity within the population as a whole". It also states that regard should be had to "the objective that, consistent with the written statement-----

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee On a point of order, there are not many Members present and Senator Craughwell's contribution should be listened to by an appropriate number of Senators.

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

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Before I call on Senator Craughwell to resume, I would like to welcome to the Public Gallery Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony and her guests, Michael, Cian and Caoimhe Walsh from Bandon. They are very welcome. I ask Senator Craughwell to resume on amendment No. 87a.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The section also states the objective-----

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee The idea of a quorum is that people remain.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the Senator making a point of order?

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Is the idea of the quorum not for people to remain for the debate?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No. Once there is a quorum in the House; that is it.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The section states, "the objective that the membership of the judiciary should, to the extent feasible and practicable, reflect the diversity within the population as a whole". It also states, "the objective that, consistent with the written statement most recently provided under section 53(7) to the Procedures Committee concerning the needs of the users of the courts in that regard, the membership of the judiciary should include persons with a proficiency in the Irish language." In the past we have seen some pretty notable cases struck out because the Irish language was not used. This happened recently with a road traffic incident if I am not mistaken, and there have been various other incidents.

  We made the point yesterday that those seeking elevation within the courts system or seeking appointment to senior judicial positions should not see their application disappear into the ether, with no feedback or information on what happened or where things went right or wrong. Yesterday I made the point that natural justice requires that people who put a lot of effort into applying for positions are entitled to some sort of explanation as to whether they made the list or not. That is what we are trying to provide here. With the prospective paragraph 42(a) we hope to clarify whether the person was or was not among those recommended by the commission to the Government in respect of the appointment. I accept that the insertion of this amendment will give rise to questions. People who did not make the shortlist may want to ask why. It may also lead to a situation where the deliberations of the commission are subjected to judicial review of some sort or other. Individuals may feel they should have been on the list if they are not. We are trying to provide people with some sort of assurance that the procedures are fair, open and transparent. This amendment does that.

  To turn to paragraph (b), if the commission considers a person to be ineligible for appointment by reason of the requirements of section 35, and where the commission cannot make any recommendation in any case, it shall notify all persons who applied to it in respect of that appointment that it made no recommendation. That would be a pretty serious situation. Yesterday the Minister, Senator McDowell and I seemed to have three different views on how long it would take to fill a position based on the amount of time it would take to convene the board of the commission-----

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke That is a matter of legal opinion.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell -----have the board sit and agree the advertisement for the position, advertise it and carry out the initial application process. We have discussed the application process at length in this Chamber with respect to how people would make it through the first hurdle. We have a situation there. Once applications come in they have to be assessed by somebody. Once that assessment is completed, a board must convene and review it. A board must then convene and carry out interviews. After the interviews have taken place, there must be some sort of feedback. We are talking about very senior legal positions here.  That would be a very serious situation, as the Minister would agree. It might give rise to the fact that the advertisement was flawed and many other questions with respect to the selection process. The selection process would have to be more robust than it would be without this amendment. Every step would have to be assessed in advance for the likely impact of potential candidates. The potential candidates could be reassured that once the application is submitted, they would know precisely for what they applied. This is because the qualifications would have been set out properly in whatever advertisement was put forward and there could be no misunderstanding.

  By having this amendment within the Bill, we would safeguard against the likelihood that people would apply incorrectly for a position for which they were not suitably qualified. Yesterday we spoke about qualifications for the Chief Justice, specifically the depth of knowledge and experience that would be required for that job. Somebody who recently qualified at the Bar could not apply for the position of Chief Justice as the advertisement would be very clear about the level of expertise, length of time in office and knowledge of the Irish language, for example. All of these would be set out very clearly in any advertisement. The likelihood that the commission would make a mistake in rejecting an application would be greatly diminished by virtue of the transparency brought by this amendment.

  My colleagues, Senators McDowell and Boyhan, and I have always said the amendments we are putting forward are designed to support the Minister's Bill. We are not trying to do away with the general thesis from the Minister. Many people are saying that certain individuals in Dáil Éireann are pushing the Bill and forcing the Minister and everybody else down this road. I do not believe that but I believe it is the Minister's Bill; it will be his Bill forever as he has brought it before the Houses. I do not necessarily believe it is the Bill he wanted and although it came from the programme for Government, the Minister would have done this differently if he had time to do so. This amendment seeks to ensure any persons putting their names forward will be certain of what they are applying for and will have the necessary qualifications. If those people are not selected, they will know this.

  There is another matter. We spoke about confidentiality. A barrister, for example, may be chosen for a position that a learned judge may have applied for as well but where the judge did not make the list. This would be serious and we would have to ensure the information in question would not get into the public domain, as it would have a fairly detrimental effect on the career of that learned judge. This is where we walk a bit of a tightrope. The individual who applied is entitled to know how he or she fared but the information is subject to confidentiality processes. Somebody was here the other day shouting about something in the newspaper and demanding the Minister's head on a plate because something had allegedly been leaked from the Minister's Department. All we need is a leak before we see all sorts of scenarios. Natural justice would require that an individual should know if he or she has made a list.

  In the education area in recent times positions have been advertised but a suitable candidate for the position has not been found even over two, three or four occasions. Part of this is because of the onerous responsibility placed on people in senior positions and the public awareness, specifically arising from instant access to social media, etc. It might prevent people from applying for positions, and we are talking about high-profile positions in the Judiciary. If it is not possible to make a recommendation - as covered by section 42(b) - it would be very serious. Apart from anything else, having to re-advertise the position would give rise to serious media speculation as to what went wrong, with ensuing questions. Nevertheless, this is about the transparency all of us would like to see. I await the Minister's comments.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have good news for Senator Craughwell as I will accept amendment No. 87b. I am amenable to it and I indicated as much last night. I would be happy to accept it and in the event of there being any unforeseen difficulty, we can come back to it on Report Stage. I indicated some weeks ago that I was keen to find a solution with what I felt was a worthwhile proposal on the part of the Senators. I will accept it and it can be the subject matter of further debate if appropriate. It is a fair point.

  With respect to amendment No. 87a, I have listened to Senator Craughwell speaking about delays in appointments. Much of the lead-in work described by Senator Craughwell over the past number of days and nights is already in place. The procedures and requirements for particular posts will be set out in the published statements under Part 8 of the Bill. This will be the job specification, the appropriate experience, attributes, qualities and what will be sought. The job description and requirements will not have to be designed each time a vacancy arises. I will not revisit last night's debate on delays but I am conscious of what Senators have said. I am conscious that there should not be any form of delay. I will not accept amendment No. 87a as it is not necessary or essential. I ask the Senator to withdraw it. I will accept amendment No. 87b.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I will withdraw amendment No. 87a with a view, perhaps, to bringing it back on Report Stage. I thank the Minister for accepting the amendment. If he and I had been here for the past couple of weeks, we might have got through the Bill by now. It is a conciliatory act by the Minister as the Bill goes through the House. It will make the Bill much stronger.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I move amendment No. 87b:

In page 29, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:
“Provision of information to applicants

42. In every case where the Commission makes any recommendation to the Government in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, the Commission shall inform each of the persons applying to the Commission in respect of the judicial appointment in question —
(a) whether the person was or was not among those persons recommended by the Commission to the Government in respect of that appointment, and

(b) whether, if it were the case, the Commission considered that the person was not eligible for appointment by reason of the requirements of section 35,
and in any case where the Commission cannot make any recommendation the Commission shall notify all persons who applied to the Commission in respect of that appointment that it made no recommendation.".

  Amendment agreed to.

SECTION 42

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendments Nos. 88, 88a and 89 are related. Amendment No. 88a is a physical alternative to amendment No. 88 and amendment No. 89 is consequential on amendment No. 88. Amendments Nos. 88 and 89 may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Government amendment No. 88:

In page 29, to delete lines 21 to 27 and substitute the following:
"(3) In any case to which subsection (1) applies, the Commission shall cause its recommendation to the Minister to be accompanied by a statement of the name of each eligible person (other than a person the subject of its recommendation) who had made a relevant application.

(4) Subsection (5) applies where the Commission determines that it cannot, in accordance with this Act, recommend to the Minister the name of any person for the purposes of section 40 or 41 (and the case is other than one in which there were no relevant applications whatsoever by eligible persons).

(5) Where this subsection applies, the Commission, on making the determination referred to in subsection (4), shall inform the Minister of it and shall furnish to the Minister a statement of the name of every eligible person who had made a relevant application.".

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Amendment No. 88 corresponds with a Government amendment on Dáil Report Stage which was proposed and defeated in the other House, and is linked to amendment No. 89. The select committee passed two Opposition amendments, at the time Nos. 139 and 140, to section 44 of the Bill as initiated. The effects of those amendments are, first, to oblige the commission, when it has been unable to recommend a person for appointment, to re-advertise at three-monthly intervals until it is satisfied to recommend at least one person to fill the vacancy concerned and, second, to delete subsections (3) to (5), inclusive, of section 44 of the Bill as initiated, hence dispensing with the requirement that the commission, if it cannot recommend any names or recommends fewer than three names, provide to the Minister a statement of the name of every eligible applicant. My Report Stage amendment in the Dáil was unsuccessful in seeking to reverse the committee amendments and to reinstate the appropriate provisions of the Bill as initiated in what is now the section 42 before us.

  I am unhappy with the state of affairs left in place as a result of the amendment carried by the Dáil committee. We have to acknowledge the original purpose was to deal with probably an exceptional enough event, which was the situation where the commission could only recommend fewer than three names, that is, one or two, or in certain circumstances, none. The general thrust of the provision is based on the corresponding provision in statute that provides for the work of the current Judicial Appointments Advisory Board. The 1995 Act envisaged a situation where it might not be possible to recommend the then prescribed number and, in these circumstances, the particulars of the eligible candidates were to be forwarded to the Government. In today's terms, it does not make sense to create a situation where a judge is urgently required to be allocated to essential court business but the Government is not provided with information that may allow it to nominate a person for appointment.

  We are back to an anxiety on my part to ensure there is no delay. In such circumstances, if they arise, I believe it is important that the Government should exercise the constitutional prerogative to decide to appoint or, indeed, not to appoint a judge. That would be the case in any event under the Constitution but that decision can only reasonably be informed by consideration of the particulars of those who have applied and, consequently, been deemed eligible. It is proposed that amendment No. 88 revert the position to that of the Bill as published, which requires the commission to forward all the eligible names in specified circumstances. The alternative of retaining the measure as it stands would mean the Government would face two scenarios: first, having only one or two names to work from, with no formal additional information about eligible persons who have applied; and, second, not being able to proceed where the commission could not recommend any name and the commission re-runs the competition in a potentially endless loop at quarterly intervals. This may be in conflict with the choice requirement under the Constitution. I would ask Senator Craughwell in particular to support me on this because he is anxious to ensure we do not have delay and he is on record as supporting due process, but a process that is not in any way frustrated by delay.

  I put this amendment on the basis that it would not be acceptable to have a situation where vacancies are left unfilled for a series of quarters while the commission runs repeat competitions to find people it might deem appropriate and suitable. That is my position on amendment No. 88. I will hear Senator Craughwell on amendment No. 88a and will then reply.

  Amendment No. 89 is a drafting amendment to section 43 consequential on the addition to the Bill of the subsections referred to in amendment No. 88.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell On amendment No. 88, subsection (3) currently states:

If the Commission cannot, in accordance with this Act, recommend to the Minister any names of persons to fill a judicial vacancy, it shall invite, through means of advertisement, the making of applications by persons to be considered for selection, that is for their being selected to be the subject of a recommendation for appointment to judicial office, at three-monthly intervals until such time as the Commission is satisfied, subject to section 35 and section 36..."

I understand where the Minister is coming from and I have acknowledged that I have seen this happen in education, for example, where it has been almost impossible to find a suitable candidate to fill a principal's position. I am concerned that the commission would find itself in a position, having advertised a vacancy for, say, an ordinary member of the Supreme Court, where it failed to find three suitable candidates. I am mulling it around in my head, in particular the fact it would advertise, then advertise again in three months and then again in three months thereafter. I wonder what our media would make of the fact. First, there is the point the commission would have failed to find suitable applicants in one or two rounds of advertisements. Second, let us say we go to a third advertisement, which means a period of six months, and we then find two or three people ready to make a recommendation to the Minister. What would the media make of that judge? The first question would be whether he or she applied for the first advertisement, whether he or she applied the second time, and whether he or she is some sort of, for want of a better description, yellow-pack judge, a judge of last resort, and that we could not find anybody until this person came along.

  There is an inherent fairness in what the Minister is trying to do and if that is the way the Bill was originally written, I would support him on it. However, it gives rise to difficulties in the world we currently live in, where people are subjected to the most horrendous public scrutiny, sometimes based on nothing. We could find ourselves in a situation where the commission, having gone through the procedures, advertised the position and set out the criteria, then failed to find three names out of all the people in academia and the legal profession who are practising in any of the courts. That would be a matter of great concern.

  The Minister might clear up one point. In putting the advertisement in place, the commission would be within its rights to set out certain criteria for the position as advertised, if I read the Minister right. Could the commission include in its advertisement, shall we say, the more human traits, rather than the academic or the experiential? We spoke here last night about a situation where a Supreme Court was weighted with more conservative judges and there would be a need to balance the situation, and we see in the United States all the time where a more liberal judge or a more conservative judge is needed to bring balance back to its Supreme Court. Will the commission have within its rights, or will the Minister have within his or her rights when he or she puts a request to the commission, the facility to say there are, for example, too many conservative judges and we need a liberal, or that we do not have judges with sufficient expertise in criminal law or who are capable of hearing cases in the Irish language? While the Irish language and the criminal law are more academic aspects, there is the question of the dispensation of the person being looked for with respect to their liberal or conservative views.  I would have thought that, as Minister for Justice and Equality, he would want to have an eye over the Four Courts with respect to its views on social issues, for example, and, specifically, whether there were too many conservatives or liberals down there. The Minister may correct me if I am wrong. I am happy to come back to him when I have heard his words on that. Is that something that, as Minister for Justice and Equality, he would want to be able to do when we select judges? Is it something that the procedures that would be followed by the commission would be able to put in place? It is one area where we could find a situation that despite the fact there were a number of eminent and learned judges or barristers applying for the position, they did not fulfil the human criteria he was looking for with respect to their liberal or conservative views. I would be interested to know where we stand on that. I will wait for the Minister to make his point.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Neither I nor the Government would make any recommendation to the commission regarding the political persuasion of any applicant or the requirement in such circumstances. It is up to the procedures committee to set out in detail the type of characteristics required. In fact, the Bill is quite specific in many respects. Indeed, it is the commission that would examine the appropriate vacancy from time to time and see if that vacancy fits with any particular pursuit within the courts system.

  I am pleased to hear the apparent support of Senator Craughwell for amendment No. 88. I am as anxious as he and others to remove from the Bill the carousel-type provision in subsection (3). However, the difficulty is that the Senator's amendment No. 88a somewhat overlaps with my amendment No. 88. I would prefer if Senator Craughwell would go further and instead support my alternative amendment No. 88 and amendment No. 89 which, together, would bring matters closer to the policy and procedure within the Bill, as initiated, but would also accord with the point raised by Senator Craughwell regarding due process, no undue delay and a sense of purpose on the part of the commission to get the job done in accordance with the terms of reference under the Bill.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Minister for his response. I am minded to support his amendment. I wish to clarify the situation. Let us suppose a vacancy arises, such as for an ordinary member of the Supreme Court, and the Minister informs the chairman of the commission that we need to establish a board to fill the vacancy. If I am correct the Minister is saying that the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality starts and stops at that point; the Minister would say, "We have a vacancy, Mr. Chairman, set about filling that vacancy and off you go."

  Let us get back to the issue of the balance of the Judiciary and the issues to which I referred a few minutes ago with respect to the human rather than political characteristics. I understand from where the Minister was coming when he used the term "political", but I tend to look at them more as human characteristics. There are people who are of a very conservative nature in their views. We saw that in recent referendums. Is the commission within its rights to sit down and consider the current make-up of the Supreme Court or High Court and agree among its members that people with criminal, company law or constitutional expertise are required for a particular vacancy, and then to further classify persons as being conservative or liberal in their views? In such a situation one would find that, in effect, the commission is tailoring the position. Last night, Senator McDowell made the point-----

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I can short-circuit this discussion by saying that will not happen.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell How does the Minister mean it will not happen?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan It will not be in the terms of reference from the Government to the commission.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Can the commission do it?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I said the political disposition or otherwise. The commission will deal with its own affairs.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Will it have within its authority or within the scope of the legislation the right to consider these matters?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan No. The legislation will be silent in that regard.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell So the decision of the commission will be based strictly on the academic and experiential qualifications of the applicants and not necessarily their views on societal issues. For example, it could not say that it must get someone with criminal justice knowledge because it does not have such a person. It could not say it needs someone with knowledge of corporate or company law.

   Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: The decision of the commission will be based strictly on the academic and experiential qualifications of the applicant and not their views on societal issues. For example, it could not,, decide that a candidate with experience of criminal or corporate law is required.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan That will depend on the vacancy.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell So the vacancy could specify such things as the legal expertise required.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan That is all in the Bill.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell In that case, I am minded to support amendment No. 88.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Amendment No. 88a not moved.

  Question proposed: "That section 42, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Minister, who has been more than facilitating in accepting amendments and bringing forward his own amendment which brings the Bill back to what was originally drafted. I thank the Minister for that. This is part of what has been going on here to try to make this a better Bill. I see a willingness on the part of the Minister to make this a Bill which will work. From that point of view I am very happy to support section 42 having gone through the amendments. I thank the Minister for facilitating that.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am grateful for the comments of the Senator.

  Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 43

  Government amendment No. 89:

In page 29, lines 38 and 39, to delete “that provision” and substitute “subsection (3) or (5) of that section”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Question proposed: "That section 43, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Government amendment No. 89 would mean that in the event of the commission being unable to recommend three names for appointment, but was able to recommend a lesser number or no persons as well as the name being provided to the Minister, it will also provide applicants' education, professional qualification, experience, character records and results of an interview or tests held or conducted by the commission is respect of the application.  Bizarrely, as the legislation currently stands, the Attorney General is forbidden, under pain of criminal offence, from revealing to the Cabinet any persons who sought judicial office as part of the commission appointment process, yet, according to the Government's amendment, if, for whatever reason, the commission is unable to recommend any person for judicial office then it is obliged to list the name of every person who put himself or herself forward to the Minister.

  Separately, and equally bizarrely, the commission is only bound to provide the Minister with the applicants' education, professional qualifications, experience, character records and results of any interview or tests held or conducted by it in respect of the applicant if less than three persons are recommended for a particular position. We addressed the position of the Attorney General and, as far as I recall, the Minister was open to a discussion on the position. Returning to my earlier point, and taking a scenario where we have advertised a judicial post-----

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I will not discuss it now but I am open to future discussion on this issue.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I understand that.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am not going to discuss it on section 43.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I understand that-----

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Nor would I expect that the Chair to allow me to do so.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell This might address the Minister's thinking. I refer to a situation where the Attorney General is sitting on this commission. The commission has advertised a position which it was not possible to fill in the first round. There would then be a second round. That second round could bring the position into public debate. The media would then have a field day regarding the commission being unable to appoint anybody. Freedom of information requests would then follow on how many applications there were. In that scenario, the names cannot be revealed but it would be possible to find out how many candidates applied for the position. There would then be media speculation that out of perhaps 40 people who applied, the commission could not find three. The Minister can imagine how there would be a field day in that scenario.

  If it is not possible to appoint someone on a first round, and having gone through a second round, would it not be advisable that the Attorney General would be free, under his or her Article 30 constitutional role, to make a recommendation to the Cabinet based on what transpired during the selection process? It breaks us out of the transparency I have been looking for but, at the same time, it does not allow a process to go on indefinitely without being addressed. It would allow for the filling of the vacancy. That is something we were talking about last night and the Minister expressed concern about leaving positions vacant. It can be imagined how difficult the situation would be if it was not possible to find three suitable names in the first and second rounds. There has to be a proviso of some sort in the Bill, which would allow the Government to take advice from its legal adviser to fill that position.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I do not wish to unduly delay the proceedings of the House. I have listened carefully to the Senator on this issue over the past number of days. I am minded to seek a formula that might address the issue as raised. I have two points to make. First, I refer to the issues of confidentiality, especially those referenced in sections 27 and 28. In many respects, Senator McDowell was the person who, more than any other Senator, introduced the issue of confidentiality of process. That was for good and sound reasons. I refer to the fact that information of a sensitive and personal and professional nature should be kept within the confines of the commission and not disclosed, even in exceptional circumstances.

  This has also brought into focus the constitutional role and function of the Attorney General. I am examining that and I am minded to see whether I can devise a formula that will facilitate the type of scenario as envisaged by Senator Craughwell. As I said earlier, if we can proceed through Committee Stage, I will require a period of reflection for a number of weeks before we take Report Stage. That would be part of the deliberative process in any event. I will need to consult my Government colleagues for amendments to be made. I am conscious, however, of the point raised by the Senator. In any event, I will not bring in such a formula, if I can find one that will be to the satisfaction of the Senators, under section 43.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Minister and appreciate what he said. I am mindful, however, that ever since we first started to work through this Bill I have been toying with the conflict between the constitutional roles of the Government and the Attorney General. The Bill does not necessarily usurp those roles but it seeks to control them. For example, we have been down the road of the scenario where a Government gets three names. It does not necessarily have to appoint any of the three people named. It can appoint whomever it wants. I am greatly bothered by the confidentiality issue relating to the Attorney General. I have only been in this House for four years but I have been observing politics most of my life. Time and again, Governments refer to the advice given by the Attorney General as having led to a particular series of events or decisions made.

  As a former president of a trade union, I find myself slightly conflicted. On one hand, I want there to be clear, open and transparent processes and procedures so there can be no questions and no doubts as to how a commission arrived at a decision. I support the procedures being put in place by the Minister, albeit we are battling our way through it, and I admire his constant work with us on this. Then there is the other side of me, however - the practical citizen side. From that perspective, I am thinking of a situation where we find ourselves in a sort of a stopgap position. The process has been gone through once and is now being done a second time. There are perhaps people who were close but not close enough, or there is somebody down in the Law Library or the High Court who could fill a Supreme Court position or a position on the Court of Appeal.

  The Attorney General knows that. He or she also knows that the commission has done its work and it was just unfortunate that a person, who might be seen by the Government, the Bar and the various courts as a highly suitable, would not apply because he or she did not like the application process. The courts might then become a political football because of what the media would make of a failure to find three names. Rather than allow that to happen, would it not be vital, when the second round is over, regardless of the outcome, that there would be finality with respect to the appointment? That finality would come by way of a recommendation from the Attorney General to the Minister for Justice and Equality. He or she could then bring it to Cabinet.

  There would not then be a situation of an unfilled post, media speculation and all sorts of nonsense on the social media about the state of the Judiciary, etc. That is one of the areas where the Minister could ensure he or she does not end up in a scenario where, having gone through the process twice, he or she is still without a suitable applicant.  I am not sure that could be done by amending the Bill on Report Stage. I am very mindful of the fact that on Report Stage it is, "One stab and you are out" with respect to debate on amendments. Our opportunity to tease out these issues is now. We will not get the same opportunity on Report Stage. While I greatly appreciate the Minister's willingness to work with us on it, I want assurance that we are going to find a way out. I do not want the Judiciary to be brought into disrepute. God knows politics gets enough of that from social media and the media in general. We do not want members of the Judiciary to be second-guessed by whatever media one cares to look at. We do not want TV programmes or "Prime Time" going through who might or might not have applied, why they might or might have been selected and why the constitutional role of the Attorney General prevents him or her from bringing making a recommendation as the legal adviser to the State. We need solid reassurances at this stage that the Minister will work with us on that.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am happy to offer some comfort to the Senator, if not reassurance. He pointed out that Report Stage is "One stab and you are out". On Committee Stage we have had so many stabs that there is a danger of mortality. I am anxious to help and I refer to my previous commentary in that regard.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell With that in mind I am willing to take the Minister's word on section 43.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I propose a suspension before the Acting Chairman puts the question, because there is a Topical Issue debate in the Dáil which the Minister must attend. In my capacity as Acting Leader I propose that we suspend the House until 4.45 p.m.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Sitting suspended at 4.15 p.m. and resumed at 4.45 p.m.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I welcome the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, back to the House. We will now dispose of section 43, as amended.

  Question again proposed: "That section 43, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Section 43 is reasonable as it stands. I do not think anybody could object to it. However, it is too narrow in its scope and the Government should have-----

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The question has been put. There cannot be any further discussion.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The question was not put. It was about to be put when Senator Conway interrupted before the suspension.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The question was in the process of being put before the suspension.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I proposed the question again and Senator McDowell intervened to make a contribution, as he is entitled to do. If the question had been put and deliberated on before the sos, he would not be allowed to contribute. I am putting the question.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway This has nothing to do with Senator McDowell. I am seeking clarity. The Acting Chairman before the suspension, Senator Noone, was in mid-stream and about to put the question when we had to suspend the House.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The Acting Chairman was interrupted by Senator Conway who requested that the Minister be allowed to attend to other business in the Lower House, which was fine.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway That was an interruption. The Chair should now put the question.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Senator McDowell is entitled to contribute before the question is put.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I will not be long. It is amusing to see Senator Conway tripping himself up.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan His intervention has doubled the time spent on this.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The commission is obliged by this section to give particulars of the education, professional qualifications, experience, character and where applicable the records of any interviews held by the commission in respect of the person. This is in respect of a person who it has recommended. As part of the starvation by Government of the information as to whom the non-short-listed people are and what their qualities, qualifications and experience are, this section effectively rubber stamps the notion that the Government should only be given information about the successful applicants and be kept in the dark as to the unsuccessful applicants. On that basis, I am opposed to it.

Question 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 Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
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 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 Gerry Horkan   Zoom on Gerry Horkan   Horkan, Gerry.
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire. Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank. Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry.
Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura. Information on Ian Marshall   Zoom on Ian Marshall   Marshall, Ian.
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.
Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim. Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald.
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig. Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
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 Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
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.

Question declared carried.

NEW SECTION

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendment No. 90, in the names of Senators McDowell, Boyhan and Craughwell, has been discussed with amendment No. 78.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I move amendment No. 90:

In page 30, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

44. (1) This section applies to the following judicial offices:
  (a) the office of Chief Justice;

  (b) the office of the President of the Court of Appeal;

  (c) the office of the President of the High Court;

  (d) the offices of membership of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal other than those specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c).
  (2) Where any of the judicial offices to which this section applies stands vacant or where the Minister reasonably apprehends that any of those offices will stand vacant, the Minister shall request the Senior Judicial Appointments Committee (in this     section referred to as “the Committee”) of the Government.

  (3) For the purposes of this section, the Committee shall be a committee consisting of the following persons:
  (a) the Chief Justice;

  (b) the President of the Court of Appeal;

  (c) the President of the High Court;

  (d) the Attorney General; and

  (e) the Chairperson of the Top Level Appointments Committee.
  (4) Where any of the office-holders who is a member of the Committee has expressed, or has an interest in appointment to the judicial office mentioned in subsection (1) or in the event of any of the said offices standing vacant or where the Government is satisfied of the incapacity of the holder of such office to function as part of the Committee, the provisions of subsection (5) shall have effect.

   (5) Where the circumstances in subsection (4) apply, the Committee shall consist of—

        (a) the members of the Committee mentioned in subsection (3) who are not affected by the terms of subsection (4), and
  (b) a person or persons acting in substitution for any person affected by the terms of subsection (4) as provided in subsection (6).
  (6) The following persons shall act in substitution for the persons mentioned in subsection (3):
  (a) in the case of the Chief Justice, the next most senior ordinary judge of the Supreme Court who has not and is not expressing an interest in appointment to the vacancy mentioned in subsection (2);

  (b) in the case of the President of the Court of Appeal, the most senior ordinary judge of the Court of Appeal who has not and is not expressing an interest in appointment to the vacancy mentioned in subsection (2);

  (c) in the case of the Attorney General, the Director General of the office of the Attorney General.
  (7) The Committee shall, for the purposes of making a report under subsection (2)
  (a) inform all members of the Superior Courts of the vacancy and invite any such member to express an interest in being appointed to the judicial office mentioned in subsection (2),

  (b) publish any circular or advertisement as it considers appropriate inviting any other person eligible for appointment to the judicial office mentioned in subsection (2) to notify the Committee expressing an interest in such an appointment.
  (8) The Committee shall as soon as practicable make a report to the Government when requested by the Minister in accordance with subsection (2), and shall include in its report—
  (a) the names of such persons as have expressed an interest in appointment to the judicial office mentioned in subsection (2), and

  (b) the names of any such person or persons (not exceeding three in any case) whom the Committee recommends for such appointment.
  (9) In advising the President in relation to the appointment of a person to a judicial office to which this section applies, the Government shall first consider for appointment those persons whose names have been recommended to the Government by the Committee in a report furnished to the Government under the provisions of this section.

  (10) In the event of more than one vacancy occurring or being apprehended for the purposes of subsection (2), the Committee shall submit separate reports in respect of each vacancy.

  (11) The proceedings and reports of the Committee shall be secret and, subject to the provisions of this Act, shall not be disclosed or made public in any way.”.

  Amendment put.

  The Committee divided by electronic means.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell 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, 11; Níl, 21.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine. Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.
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 Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry. Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.
Information on Ian Marshall   Zoom on Ian Marshall   Marshall, Ian. Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael. Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura.
Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald. 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 Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  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 Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.
  Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.


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

Amendment declared lost.

SECTION 44

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendment No. 91, in the name of Senators Bacik, Humphreys, Nash and Ó Ríordáin, has already been discussed with amendment No. 86. Is the amendment being moved?

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I might wait for the Minister.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The amendment has already been discussed.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik It has been discussed but I have already indicated my intention to withdraw this amendment, look again at this grouping of amendments and reintroduce them on Report Stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Now I understand why Senator Bacik is waiting for the Minister.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I will be withdrawing the amendment. I just want the Minister to hear that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Of course.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I have already committed to withdrawing this amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I welcome the Minister back to the House. Senator Bacik may now move her amendment and speak to the Minister.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I move amendment No. 91:

In page 30, line 15, after “subsection (1)” to insert “, at least one of whom must be of each gender”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan That means amendments Nos. 91a and 91b fall as well.

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

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Does it not?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, that it is not the case.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Those amendments are in a separate grouping.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I rule on these matters.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan They are, however, consequential on amendment No. 91.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan There will be a separate discussion on them now. Amendments Nos. 91a and 91b, in the names of Senators McDowell, Boyhan and Craughwell, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan If there is no amendment No. 91, how can amendments Nos. 91a and 91b be discussed?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan They are being discussed here together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed. Senator Horkan will take over in the Chair.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I move amendment No. 91a:

In page 31, to delete lines 6 to 12.

I do not see how amendments Nos. 91a and 91b are related as they are on different topics. I would prefer if we were to discuss them separately.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Unfortunately, it has already been agreed that they will be discussed together.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell By whom?

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The Leas-Chathaoirleach stated just now that amendments Nos. 91a and 91b were related and could be discussed together. When asked if that was agreed, Members indicated it was agreed, so that decision has been made.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I do not see how they are related.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The Senator can discuss them together, one after the other.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell To be honest, I do not see how they really are related to each other.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The matter has been agreed.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Amendment No. 91a seeks to delete lines six to 12 in section 44(9). Section 44(9) states:

If the Commission cannot, in accordance with this Act, recommend to the Minister any names of persons to fill a judicial vacancy referred to in subsection (1), the Minister shall request the Commission to seek expressions of interest on the part of eligible persons who wish to be considered for appointment to such office at three-monthly intervals until such time as the Commission is satisfied, subject to subsection (2), to recommend at least one person to the Minister to fill the judicial vacancy.

To understand what that subsection means, one has to go back to section 44(1) which refers to "the judicial office of Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal or President of the High Court" or where "the Minister reasonably apprehends that any of those offices will stand vacant" in the near future. Going back to section 44(9), it means in effect that when it comes to the position of Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal or the President of the High Court the commission could not find anybody to recommend for such a position. That is an extraordinary proposition. The Minister has on a few occasions uncharitably accused me of thinking up strange situations and I have denied that.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan It comes naturally to the Senator.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I have to say, through the Chair, that this is probably the most bizarre provision in any Bill I have ever seen. That nobody would be suitable to be made Chief Justice or President of the Court of Appeal after a full process, despite the fact that all of those courts have ordinary members, and that none of them would be suitable to be appointed to the presidency in such a court, how crazy a scenario is that? Unless the members of the commission had completely lost their marbles, it could not be that nobody would be suitable for appointment, unless there had been some kind of judicial boycott of the commission's application process.

  What is even stranger about this is that having conjured up this crazy scenario, a really weird proposal is made. If the position of Chief Justice is vacant, the commission advertises for applicants to that position and then finds that there is nobody in the entire Judiciary who can be appointed as Chief Justice, what happens? This subsection says the Minister then requests the commission to seek expressions of interest on the part of eligible persons who wish to be appointed to such office at three-monthly intervals until somebody comes forward whom it can recommend. I have never heard a more bizarre provision than that there are, at three-monthly intervals, to be searches for anybody who would take the position of Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal or President of the High Court. I have heard of stupid provisions in Bills-----

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I do not disagree with the Senator.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I will let the Minister respond in due course.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Just in case the Senator is-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The Minister will have a chance to respond.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I will not have a chance to agree with the Senator. In fact, I may have my mind changed by the time he concludes.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Perhaps I should let the Minister agree with Senator McDowell before the Senator manages to persuade him to change his mind.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The really weird aspect of this is that we are also told that nothing in the Bill prevents the Government from making an appointment anyway. If nobody was coming forward and the Government did not receive a recommendation, the commission would continue to issue an appeal every three months to all of the Judiciary and the legal profession to make a submission that it could consider. It defies belief that the provision appears in this form in the Bill. I am very encouraged by the fact that the Minister is on my side on this one. I presume he will be happy to accept the amendment and see this subsection deleted.

Visit of Maltese Delegation

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Before I call in the Minister to possibly agree with Senator McDowell, which would be a momentous occasion, I am sure Members of the House will wish to join me in welcoming from Mr. Carmelo Abela, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion of Malta, who is very welcome. He is accompanied by his officials and H.E. Mr. Leonard Sacco, the Maltese ambassador to Ireland, who is also very welcome. On my own behalf and on behalf of all my colleagues in Seanad Éireann, I extend a very warm welcome to all of them and good wishes for a very successful visit to Ireland.

Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 44

  Debate resumed on amendment No. 91a:

In page 31, to delete lines 6 to 12.

-(Senator Michael McDowell).

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I will say a few words. This particular provision conjures up the notion of members of the commission hanging around the pillars of the Four Courts and asking various members of the Judiciary passing by if they can talk to them for a minute and if there is any chance they would take on the job of Chief Justice. As my colleague, Senator McDowell said, it is rather bizarre. I made the point in the previous discussion that, in the event that the second advertisement for this post failed, three months after the first advertisement, I would see nothing wrong with the Attorney General making a recommendation to the Government of a suitable person. One cannot continue to advertise a vacant post. I made the point that the media would have a ball if we were unable to find a Chief Justice out of all the legal experts in the country. We could not have such a situation. As the Minister is mindful to remove this section, rather than further delay the progress of the Bill, I will give way and let the Minister tell us how he intends to get rid of the provision.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I wish to comment on the unique nature of this occasion where we have the Minister agreeing with Senator McDowell. Senator McDowell has been raising some very significant points about the constitutionality of the legislation. It has been a very useful exercise to listen in to a great deal of the most recent debate.

  I also extend a welcome to the Minister from Malta and apologise to him for leaving the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade earlier when he was speaking. I did so to attend votes in the Chamber on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I too acknowledge the presence of the Maltese delegation. Through the Chair, I ask that my best wishes be conveyed to my colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, Dr. Michael Farrugia, with whom I enjoy a very positive and constructive relationship at the EU Council.   The original subsection (9), to which Senator McDowell referred, did not feature in the Bill as published. Section 46, as it was then, was amended on Committee Stage and replaced in its entirety with a new section that had the effect of transferring the senior judicial appointments advisory committee process into the mainstream commission process. It introduced ranking in order of preference and the carousel-type arrangement of seeking expressions of interest for the three top most judicial posts at three-monthly intervals. I stress the carousel aspect because the process has the potential to continue for a considerable time. There is no definitive end to the process, as Senators McDowell and Craughwell have adverted to. I agree that the subsection should be deleted. I am conscious that amendment No. 91a is an alternative to amendment No. 90 and involves the deletion of subsection (9).

  I have indicated on a number of occasions that I am giving detailed consideration to a type of senior officials committee. I invite Senators to agree that idea worked well in the case of the recent appointments of the Chief Justice and the President of the Court of Appeal and that a similar type construction is worthy of favourable and positive consideration. I intend to table amendments to section 44 on Report Stage.

  While I support the removal from the section of the current subsection (9), I would prefer to tackle it by way of a broader approach to dealing with the challenges arising under section 44 as a whole. On that basis, and as we appear to have reached agreement, I ask Senator McDowell to withdraw the amendment while, of course, reserving the right to resubmit it on Report Stage. At that stage, Senators will have had an opportunity to examine in detail my alternative which will, in effect, be a more extensive approach to dealing with section 44.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell We are discussing two amendments now. I hear what the Minster is saying. I cannot, however, see why he should object, even while he is preparing for Report Stage, to making this amendment. I do not know why we are always on autopilot to Report Stage. It could not possibly affect the efficacy of the Bill between now and Report Stage to accept the amendment. From that perspective, I do not see any useful purpose in withdrawing it. This particular provision should be removed from the Bill at the earliest available opportunity. It should not await something happening on Report Stage.

  The Minister might also be able to assist me with another issue, since he was there and I was not. The current text of section 44, as I understand it, was inserted on Committee Stage or Report Stage in the Dáil. Will the Minister indicate, for my information so that I can work out what is likely to pass in this House, if this provision had the support of the Sinn Féin party on Committee and Report Stages in the Dáil? If the Minister is going to be in a minority on this provision in this House, we could be in difficulty.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I do not have a record of proceedings with me. I accept that is an important point. My recollection is that the construct now in the Bill, unsatisfactory though it is, certainly had the support of the majority of the committee. I doubt very much whether that majority could have been obtained without the support of Sinn Féin. I would be happy, however, to provide Senator McDowell with such information later this evening.

  Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

  Sitting suspended at 5.45 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

  7 o’clock

Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I call the Acting Leader to make an announcement.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Notwithstanding the Order of Business today, I propose that the House suspends until voting in the Dáil has concluded.

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

  Sitting suspended at 7.05 p.m. and resumed at 7.15 p.m.

National Minimum Wage (Protection of Employee Tips) Bill 2017: Committee Stage

  Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2

  Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Pat Breen): Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen Section 2 goes to the heart of the Bill insofar as it defines tips and gratuities, and introduces the concept of obligatory tronc schemes in all employment where tips and gratuities are a feature. I addressed the House on the Bill in January 2018 and I will take this opportunity to reiterate what I said then, which was that we all wish to protect employees and ensure they receive their entitlements. Ireland has a robust suite of employment legislation to ensure this is the case. It was recently strengthened by the addition of the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018.

  While I believe that, in principle, employees are entitled to keep the tips they earn and have worked for, we must distinguish in employment rights terms between matters that are the subject of specific employment rights obligations, such as wages, and matters outside the direct control of the employers, such as tips, particularly when it is intended to introduce offences into law. Last year, I raised a number of concerns in this regard that have not been addressed in the amendments that have been tabled.

  We must be cognisant that legislating in this area without being fully aware of how it will impact on current practices and whether it could lead to unintended consequences could have a negative impact on employers and employees alike. For example, the section introduces a single definition of a tip or gratuity, which includes service charge but, under the National Minimum Wage Act, tips and service charges are treated as two distinct matters dealt with differently in terms of their reckonability for the purposes of calculating the national minimum wage. These are the type of issues that can lead to confusion and will raise questions about the workability of the Bill.

  In the course of the earlier debate on the Bill I indicated that my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, intended to request the Low Pay Commission to examine current practices on tips and report back with its findings. The Minister has done so and has received its report, which she will publish later this month.  As part of the deliberative process, the commission consulted a range of stakeholders, including the Government, political parties, trade unions and sectoral interests. It is vitally important the commission’s report should inform the debate on this Bill, as well as the wider debate on the approach to tipping. For this reason, while not opposing the Bill at this Stage, the Government is reserving its position on it. In particular, I flag the possibility that the Government may bring forward amendments on Report Stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am not sure how that was relevant to section 2. I think it was more general.

  Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 3

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 are related and may be discussed together.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I move amendment No. 1:

In page 4, line 28, to delete “subject to section 39” and substitute “subject to section 41”.

I welcome several guests to the Gallery this evening. I also welcome the Minister of State. We have had a tremendous interest in this Bill because it affects tens of thousands of workers in the hospitality sector. I am delighted to welcome members and activists from the One Galway and One Cork movements, which comprise trade unionists, community groups and student union members. I have received their letters and emails over the past several days. They are here tonight because they are passionate about this Bill. I also welcome some of my Dublin trade union colleagues from SIPTU. We also have had tremendous support from Mandate and Fórsa. All of these people have come together because this issue is pressing. A colleague asked me as we were coming into the Chamber if there was really a problem in the sector. There certainly is.

  One in three workers in the hospitality sector does not receive their tips. We know this because of extensive research carried out in Galway by the Hospitality Alliance and my former colleague, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who deserves great credit for this. Out of 450 inspections of establishments in the hotel and restaurant sector carried out by the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, in 2017, 58% involved non-compliance with employment law. This rate is truly shocking. There is no question the sector needs regulation. This is just one core element.

  I acknowledge and welcome the fact the Minister of State will not oppose the Bill at this Stage. I offer our support in terms of working with the Department to address any of the concerns he has with definitions, as well as further amendments we could bring forward together on Report Stage. We cannot have these workers left in the lurch for another 12 or 15 months. It has been nine months since the Low Pay Commission was asked to report on this matter. These workers have been waiting some time.

  My colleague earlier asked me what is happening in the sector. I received several emails over the past few weeks. One worker told me that they worked in a café but did not receive any tips. Throughout the summer, many bus tours, largely of Americans, visited the café who received a complimentary Irish coffee. The tips were used to pay for the whiskey for the Irish coffee.

  A second worker told me:

I started working for an international chain of restaurants in Ireland. When I got the job, I started my training period, during which I was told I would receive no tips. Other members of staff told me that they were incentivised to make my training period last for as long as possible so they would get to keep my tips. Then when I passed through training, I was told a percentage of my tips were taken for breakages.

  A typical complaint is that 10% of tips are taken for breakages and a further 10%, 20% or 30% is taken to balance the till if there is any shortfalls at the end of night. These are all examples which came in over the past week as to how tips are withheld. The classic example is that the money is put towards a Christmas party. A five-star hotel in the west offers this. However, if a worker leaves the employment before Christmas, for any reason, he or she will not be paid a penny. It is a deceptive means of hanging on to money.

  All Members, regardless of party affiliation, understand the importance of the tourism industry. Some fantastic people work in it. Unfortunately, many of them are suffering from wage theft. That is why this Bill is so important. I acknowledge the broad support across the Chamber for the legislation. I acknowledge in particular my colleague, Senator Nash, who was good enough to come out with me last Thursday in Galway to meet people on the streets ahead of Valentine's Day. We asked those going to restaurants to ask where their tips would be going. There is a problem in this sector. I was on the Ivan Yates radio show this evening when a terrific chef, who owns four restaurants in Galway, came on. The first thing he said was that there is a problem in the sector and that people’s tips are being withheld. This disadvantages good employers and it is unfair competition when people are pocketing tips.

  I appreciate that the Minister of State will not be opposing the Bill. It is welcomed by our colleagues in the Gallery. We need to work together to ensure it progresses. If we do not, we will let everybody down. This should not be a win for Sinn Féin but should be a win for all of us. It will be a great way for the Seanad if we could work co-operatively on this Bill and deliver it.

  Amendment No. 1 is a simple technical amendment to refer a matter to an adjudicator rather than a mediator. I thank my colleagues in the trade union movement who suggested this to tighten the legislation. We are open to more amendments from everyone across the Chamber. Hopefully, we all have the right interests at heart.

  On amendment No. 3, I thank Senator Horkan for a constructive engagement on this issue earlier today, in particular regarding the concerns of the Licensed Vintners Association, LVA. Rather than have employer involvement, it aims to have employee involvement. We do not want employers having any further complications or bureaucracy. We want employees to manage this process, as they already do in many establishments. We are seeking a set of guidelines for this to happen. Hopefully, this amendment will address one of the LVA’s key concerns.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I thought that seeing how we are all in agreement we would be brief on this.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield I welcome the guests to the Public Gallery and those watching elsewhere. I commend Senator Gavan on his work on this Bill. I did not get to speak on Second Stage. It is excellent legislation and is at the core of the issue of how we treat workers with dignity and respect. Employment conditions in the hospitality sector leave many workers in the sector vulnerable. A former colleague, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, highlighted this in the Chamber many times. Senator Gavan is doing remarkable work in ensuring this aspect of workers’ rights and fairness in the sector is secure. I commend him on it.

  Amendment No. 3 allows for a tronc scheme to be established by employees rather than employers. A tronc scheme is usually managed by one designated member of staff who pools and distributes the money fairly. The employee is independent of the employer. A well-considered scheme gives staff up to 100% ownership of tips that are shared out in a way that is fair, transparent, free of bias and free of greed.

  The section allows for regulation that can aid businesses in establishing such a scheme. The British Government is much further down the line on this issue. In Britain, there is a wealth of public advice on how to establish tax-compliant tronc schemes. The benefit of leaving this issue to regulation is that it allows the Department to work with the Department of Finance to establish this.  It would also allow employees to reach collective agreements on how staff initiatives such as pension schemes are paid for. This would be done with the consent of employees only. The regulations only apply in the context of offering guidance to these schemes. Their purpose is not to give rise to such schemes being imposed on businesses and staff who have not agreed to them.

  This is a reasonable amendment. I urge all Senators to also support amendment No. 3.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I invite Senator Nash to speak. I ask all Senators to be as brief as possible.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I will do my very best.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am saying that because we are all in agreement as I see it.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I also welcome our colleagues and trade union friends in the Public Gallery and those from the student movement. The latter is directly affected by this issue because many students are working in the hospitality sector and depend on their income to get through college, provide accommodation for themselves and so on.

  We should not make this complicated. This should be a matter of law. There is a demand for this issue to be made a matter of law and for this to be enforceable.

  We were expecting to see the Low Pay Commission's report a little earlier. I am pleased that the commission has now submitted its report to the Minister and that it will be published shortly. I was proud to work with Senator Gavan on this legislation. The Labour Party supports the principles, aims and ambitions of the legislation. We will use the Low Pay Commission's report to inform any necessary amendments that might be required on Report Stage.

  Speaking directly to the amendments, the point Senator Warfield made is important. Responsibility is given to employees to manage and oversee an agreed system for distribution and management of tips. That takes the responsibility away from the employer, which is a good thing. Many employers would appreciate the kind of direction and certainty that is not there at present. Ultimately, this needs to become a matter of law in order to ensure that the rights of workers are vindicated. There should be a right for an employee to obtain a tip that was intended for him or her. It is a matter of importance for consumers who need clarity and certainty that, when they are out for a meal or having a drink, the tips they give end up in the pockets of the people for whom they were intended. I have come across too many cases where tips have, in effect, been stolen by bad employers. Most people in this Chamber agree that the playing pitch needs to be levelled and that no unfair advantage should accrue to a bad employer because he or she decides to pocket the tips to ensure that the bottom line of the business and turnover are improved and profit is supplemented.

  I am happy to take the advice of the Low Pay Commission on any amendments that might strengthen this Bill, make it better and more robust. I know I speak for Senator Gavan and his colleagues in Sinn Féin when I say that they would also take that approach.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for the positive approach he has taken in respect of the Bill. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the work put in by our former colleague, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who went to TG4. The station's gain was Seanad Éireann's loss. He is a great man. I am not in any way denigrating the work put in by Senator Gavan on this Bill but Mr. Ó Clochartaigh did a huge amount of work in respect of it.

  I will cut to the chase because I know the Leas-Chathaoirleach is anxious that we do so. One matter that has affected the people in the Public Gallery is card payments. A customer pays a bill at the end of the meal and, generally speaking, includes a 10% tip. They stick it on the card and €100 becomes €110. The customer walks away and forgets about it, thinking they have given the people a tip.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The employee never sees it.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The bad employer pockets the €10 and it is gone. The people we are talking about are those to whom Senator Nash referred - students and individuals at the bottom end of the salary scale. Bad employers are making profits they should not make. Good employers always hand over the money. As a former trade union leader, I must be here to support this Bill in every way. I appreciate the Minister of State's positive approach to it. As a result of that approach, we are going to see this Bill become law.

  I know the Leas-Chathaoirleach is anxious for brevity. However, I will have plenty to say on one of the amendments.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I welcome the Minister of State. I join others in commending Senator Gavan. One of the first points around which this Seanad came together was that relating to workers' rights. It was the Competition (Amendment) Bill, a legislative measure proposed by the Labour Party, that first brought us together in that way. I commend Sinn Féin. I also want to commend, as others have, former Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh who has done great work with One Galway and other groups that have been campaigning and bringing this issue and all of the real stories of people's experiences in the hospitality industry to the fore.

  I want to address the amendments and the Minister of State's points.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Will the Senator speak on the amendments?

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins This is related. In the context of this section, there was concern about clarity as to, for example, what a service charge is and what a tip is. The way the language is currently phrased is quite good because it refers to what might reasonably be interpreted. It sets the position out quite clearly. It is not overly prescriptive in that it states that the customer intended or assumed the payment would be redistributed to the employee or employees. The Bill contains sections whereby there is provision such that the policy of any individual establishment should be published. That allows for any ambiguity to be cleared up. I know the proposer of the Bill is happy to work to add further clarity as it might be needed. There is already provision in the Bill that might be able to address those concerns in due course.

  It is great that we will get the report from the Low Pay Commission. We know that many union activists were out campaigning on St. Valentine's Day for this Bill and the right for workers to access their tips. People will travel to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day for the welcome, the relationship and the reception they get in our pubs, restaurants, cafes and all parts of the hospitality industry. It will be unfortunate if we go into the summer without having got this Bill through. It is good to have that report from the Low Pay Commission but it will be imperative that all of us work together, across this House and in the Lower House, to ensure that we go into the summer with real clarity.

  Workers in the hospitality sector have had a decrease in clarity. I launched the task report on precarious work where there has been a lack of predictability. This gives predictability when, unfortunately, employers have been slow to engage with the joint labour committees and some of the other areas of clarity. The Government's legislation on banded hours will help to some degree but this is another key way to give predictability and planning and ensure there is a sense of recognition for the work that is done.

  Speaking specifically to amendment No. 3, this was my only concern with the Bill and I am happy to see it addressed. When I worked in restaurants, I never made it to the position of waiter but I was a busser. I was the water deliverer, snack provider, menu layer and all the rest. I like that the Bill makes reference to tronc schemes. This amendment makes it clear that it is for employee involvement. I am sure it is the intention of the amendment, as the proposer will confirm, that it will refer to all of the relevant employees. That is why I am keen to see that specific amendment brought in and to see benefits for all of those who are contributing.

  Again, tips are about the relationship between people who access services and those who provides them. They are not petty cash. They are not a bonus for employers. We need to confirm that. They are a direct relationship and a kind of contract that exists between a customer and an employee.

  This is a good Bill because it brings us further along the road. I thank the Minister of State for taking it on board and I hope he will also take on board the concerns about the need to expedite its passage subsequent to his own amendments.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I note that we are officially discussing amendments Nos. 1 and 3-----

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

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan -----but I think almost everybody has managed to give an entire speech about everything in the Bill.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan There have been Second Stage-style speeches. I have allowed a little latitude.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I am not going to make a Second Stage speech, but-----

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash Lots of people have to do so. The reality is this is important.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I never saw a House as agreeable as it is in regard to a Bill.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I am being agreeable, as always. I will mention amendments Nos. 1 and 3 first, and then I will get onto the stuff everyone else was doing before they mentioned those amendments. I have no issue with the question of adjudicators versus mediators. I welcome amendment No. 3. I outlined a concern to Senator Gavan earlier. One of my nominating bodies represents Dublin publicans, namely, the Licensed Vintners Association, LVA. I asked for its members' opinion on what was going ahead. They do not feel there is a major problem in their particular sector. That is what they focus on. I am not taking anything away from the Vintner's' Federation of Ireland, VFI. It is hard to get good staff and employers want to reward good staff. Publicans have loads of different ways of doing it. Some pay more to kitchen staff because they do not get tips, while others pay a lower rate to workers who get a share of the tips. There are loads of different ways to do it. The LVA was concerned about becoming responsible for all the tips, dealing with the rows and assigning a members of staff to deal full-time with tips, credit cards, service charges and all the other complications. That organisation had not seen the amendments until they were published yesterday. Its members are happier that this is the case. They are of the view that an employer should never withhold tips in any scenario. They are not interested in that. I do not know what hotel chains or high-end restaurants do, but it is not what they are interested in. They want to protect the person who earns the tip for good service.

  There are times when I want to give a certain person who served me a larger tip than someone else. He or she may have been much more hospitable and better at the job than someone else. I do not know how that can be done in a group scheme. There are different ways of doing it. One establishment will do it one way and a different establishment will do it another. To each their own. It is a voluntary tronc scheme. It does not have to be done, and I am sure lots of people will decide that if things are working as they are in their business it does not have to change.

  If legislation is needed, which is clear from what Senator Gavan says, it is needed in some parts of the hospitality industry more than others. My party's position is to support this. We have made a submission to the Low Pay Commission and we await the publication of its report. I have one concern. Perhaps the Minister of State could address it at some point. I do not know how Revenue currently deals with tips. If arrangements became overly prescriptive, people might end up liable for pay as you earn, PAYE, universal social charge, USC, and pay-related social insurance, PRSI, contributions that they currently are not. Perhaps they should declare it, but they may not be. They might end up worse off after the scheme was introduced than before. I know that is not Senator Gavan's intention. That is my concern. Perhaps the Minister of State can address how these schemes work. Is it all done by self-declaration?

  Amendment No. 1 is perfectly fine. In regard to amendment No. 3, I am glad it has changed from "employer" to "employee". I thank Senator Gavan, former Senator, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, and all the Members who have contributed to this discussion and to getting this to the next Stage.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I am very pleased to be able to speak on this Bill-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are discussing amendment No. 3.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly -----and on the amendment. I remind the Leas-Chathaoirleach that this is Committee Stage. He will tell me if I am wrong. There is no limit on speaking time.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan For amendments Nos. 1 and 3, but I am anxious that we are all agreed-----

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly The Leas-Chathaoirleach is entitled to his anxiety and I am entitled to my time.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I appreciate that.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I just want to forewarn him of that. If he interrupts me, I will stay on my feet for as long as possible.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I do not want anyone being cheeky. I have not pulled anybody so far.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I was not being cheeky.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan It is terrible when Fine Gael Members row.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I want order. We are going to listen to Senator Reilly now.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I will mention those lovely words, "without interruption". I welcome this Bill. I also welcome the work that Senators Gavan and Nash and former Senator, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, have done on it. This Bill is important and well worth discussing, and the amendments that have been moved are also important. The previous speaker mentioned that the LVA would have serious concerns about being involved in tips, which most of them are not. I believe most employers are good employers. They encourage tips and ensure that the staff get them. However, there are those who do not. That is clear and Senator Gavan has made that point eloquently. As a student, I worked in the industry myself years ago. People have mentioned students. This industry is an important source of income to get them through college. There are many more people who work in the industry full time. This is a significant part of their income. In reply to comments on how this might be treated by Revenue, I note that the other word for a tip is a "gratuity". It is, therefore, free and I hope it will remain free from the Revenue Commissioners' attention.

  This House has generally been good at passing Bills that make sense without any party politics. I welcome the opportunity to support this Bill on behalf of the Government.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am mindful of the fact that this is Committee Stage. I hope the Leas-Chathaoirleach will allow me the opportunity to commend Senators Gavan and Warfield and former Senator, Mr. Ó Clochartaigh, on this Bill. It can be summed up in three words: transparency, trust and fairness. The priority is not merely justice for service sector employees, but also confidence for the customer that his or her tips go directly to the server and perhaps their extended team, not elsewhere. Many of us have recently heard stories about what can go wrong when trust between employer and employees breaks down. I refer to an article in The Irish Times about the Ivy restaurant in Dawson Street. Perceived injustice weakens morale, reduces productivity and leads to high staff turnover. This ultimately harms the employer, the employee and the customer.

  In regard to these amendments, service sectors employees are right in seeking to safeguard their tips. Tips are an earned reward for work well done, often under pressure, and not a privilege as some more questionable employers often make out. We should remind ourselves, however, that tipping exists to supplement an employee's income, not to replace it. The obligation to pay staff always remains with the employer. We should keep in mind that upholding the human dignity of the employee need not come at the expense of the freedom of the employer. We should seek clarity and transparency in how tips are collected and distributed, but the State should not cross the line into dictating to companies exactly how they should structure and divide tips between employees. Every private sector enterprise is different, and a one-size-fits-all solution is not possible. I am glad that this Bill shows an awareness of that and makes special provision for employers to share in tips if they themselves directly participated in the work , as is the case in many smaller companies.

  How a business deals with tips should be communicated to employees before they accept job offers. If this was the case, we could allow the market to decide what works and what does not. We need to create a level playing field and mandate total transparency. Managing how tips are distributed between staff is a delicate process. It can justifiably differ from one workplace to another. Redistribution recognises the work done by non-front-of-house staff, which is often unseen but nonetheless vital to the customer's experience. Tips encourage meritocracy and teamwork and they ought to be protected. This Bill is as modest as it is impactful. I have no doubt that it will be appreciated by service sector workers across the country, and I look forward to the continuation of the legislation.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan This proposal will be welcomed by members of the unions in the Gallery, particularly the Union of Students in Ireland. I acknowledge that it is not just students who avail of tips. People of different ages and generations work in the hospitality sector. Like my colleague, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, I worked in the hospitality sector, in a café in Tramore, as a single mother with three children. The tips did help. It was not just the money in my pocket, but the sense of acknowledgement that the service I provided was appreciated.  I will speak specifically to amendment No. 3. I refer to the tronc system. It is welcome that employees should decide among themselves the system they will use to share tips. There are front-of-house staff but there are also staff working in different capacities in the background and the amendment is, therefore, welcome. It also shows trust in staff. It teaches collaboration and how to be fair and square in a sector where, by and large, contracts of employment are at the lower end, as others Senators have said. That is why I very much support Senators Gavan and Warfield and all those who have put forward this Bill on behalf of Sinn Féin.

  I also acknowledge that the Minister of State's support for the Bill. It is good that it has cross-party collaboration and support.

   Amendment agreed to.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, to delete lines 36 and 37 and substitute the following:
"(iii) require the employer to pay to the employee compensation of such amount as is just and equitable having regard to all of the circumstances, and".

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen The wording, as revised, seems to be in line with the wording in the Workplace Relations Act which, for the sake of consistency, would seem to be a good thing. Unfortunately, in making this deletion, it seems that the obligation on the adjudication officer to make a decision seems to have been lost with the result that it seems to imply that an adjudication officer shall hear a case and make an award. I would prefer that the reference to the making of a decision by an adjudication officer would be retained as I believe it would bring greater clarity to the provision.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan The purpose of the amendment is to allow an employee to seek compensation for the breach together with an award for the amount withheld or deducted. As with the previous amendments, I want to take on board the Minister of State's comments. I offer to work with the Department prior to Report Stage to tighten up the wording as best we can.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will deal with that on Report Stage. That is probably agreed.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The research conducted by my colleagues in Sinn Féin in drafting the Bill made for some difficult reading. The incidence of tips not being passed on to staff is much higher than any of us would like to think. This is an important amendment and it provides an avenue for redress for employees whose rights have been breached under this legislation. As a former trade union leader, I find it regrettable that this issue of tips could not have been resolved a long time ago through collective bargaining mechanisms. This legislation, therefore, provides the only avenue by which workers can pursue this. Workers need to be given statutory rights that will be upheld in court. I hope the amendment has a strong deterrent effect on employers, which will in time lead to good practice becoming the norm rather than the exception. The passing on of tips is a problem in many countries, yet the giving of tips is not. We have all had the experience of putting money under the salt and pepper on the table in a restaurant, popping it into a jar, giving it to a waiter or waitress or adding it to a credit card payment, yet we have no idea if those tips reach the people for whom they were intended.

  As a country which is so dependent on tourism, the quality of service in our hospitality sector is world renowned. There is a very big difference between eating a meal in a restaurant and having a memorable dining experience especially, but not exclusively, on a special occasion. The giving of tips is an acknowledgement of the added value. It is as important for the giver as the receiver.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are on amendment No. 2. The Senator should finish up.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Not knowing who gets it or where it goes is unsettling for everyone involved. I can even imagine how demotivating it must be for highly trained, committed and generous staff to have an important token of appreciation withheld from them. I fully support the amendment and hope the Minister of State sees fit to support it.

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

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Very, very briefly -----

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan That was very briefly.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell We have all, at some stage, worked in the hospitality sector. We knew the abuses that went on with bad employers. In my youth, I worked in a hotel where staff had to work a week in hand and would get paid at the end of the second week. The employer fired everyone on the Thursday of the second week-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan My God.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Oh my God. That is dreadful.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell -----so he never had to pay us. The employer was renowned for it. There are great employers out there and we must recognise them. We were talking about students. I received letters from the president of the Union of Students of Ireland on this.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine He is still talking. He said that he would not be long.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell There are great employers and we must recognise them. I hope that the amendment will be accepted.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I welcome what Senator Craughwell said and very much appreciate his support. The importance of getting the compensation right is because of the damage that is done to people. I will give an example my office received last week. This relates to a lady works in a restaurant who knows that the tips will never go to her. The tips are left and are gathered by management. In order to get a tip from friends when they dine in the restaurant, she must meet them surreptitiously in the bathroom. That is the reality and this is documented. I would like to acknowledge the role played by NUI Galway, and Dr. Deirdre Curran in particular, in gathering many of these testimonies. This is happening today and that is why compensation is so important.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It seems the Senator agreed that before Report Stage he and the Minister of State will discuss this.

  Amendment agreed to.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I move amendment No. 3:

In page 5, line 8, to delete “for employer involvement” and substitute “for employee involvement”.

   Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are related. Amendment No. 4 is consequential on No. 5. Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, line 9, to delete “Subject to subsections (d) and (e)” and substitute “Subject to paragraph (d)”.

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen The amendments provide for the deletion of the originally proposed definition of employers who might be entitled to share in tips in certain circumstances. It seems to seek the use of existing legislative provision to define the type of employer who may participate in the distribution of tips rather than the introduction of a new definition. However, the relevance of the associated employers definition and how it might be relevant to the types of employers, for example, sole proprietors or partners who might currently share in tips is not at all clear and, therefore, I have reservations about the proposed change in definition without such clarity as to the intention.

  Section 3 defines tips as though they were wages owing to the employee. Many questions remain open. Without a proper paper record of the tips practice, it is not clear how this can be enforced by inspectors from the WRC. Who will keep these records? Who will be responsible for them? Without proper factual record keeping, what protections will be in place for the employer or employee? If tips are to be treated as almost akin to wages should they be processed through the employer's payroll and taxed? There are many issues as to how this Bill would operate that are not clearly enough defined or set out.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The amendments are specific to owner-managers of pubs and so on. The information can be on the menus or it might not be. If we are going to have information put on menus, we can have a lead-in time so that places do not need to reprint menus that they had printed the previous week because of the legislation. Many of us tip, whether it is lounge staff or someone working in a restaurant. One will often pay for a meal by credit card and give the tip in cash so that somebody gets it. I understand that in places where there is a compulsory service charge of 10% or 12.5% for groups over six, for instance, that often does not go to the employee, although people might think that it does. The Minister of State or Senator Gavan might confirm my understanding that those service charges at whatever rate will end up in a pot controlled by employees to be distributed among staff one way or another, whether it is lounge staff, bar staff, chefs, waiting staff and so on.  Under this Bill, a tip, be it 10%, 12%, 15% or 20%, will end up in a pot to be controlled by employees and distributed among them, be that kitchen staff, chefs, lounge, bar and waiting staff and so on. As already stated by Senator Reilly, the concern is that the system could become so organised it would come to the attention of Revenue and it might deem the gratuities received by each staff member to be additional income and, therefore, subject to tax. I do not think any of us want to see a situation where this money would be subject to USC, PAYE and PRSI. Also, the employer could be deemed liable because he or she knew this was happening within the business. We are doing great work in terms of this Bill but we need to be careful that we do not end up doing a disservice to these people who are, by and large, generally in the lower-paid sector of society.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I take on board what the Minister of State said. We have designed this Bill on existing legislation in Ontario, which has been in place now for a couple of years and no issues have no arisen. This Bill is almost identical to that legislation. The Minister of State said that there is a danger of us being overly prescriptive. That is not what we want to do and I do not think we should do that. There are two key aspects to the Bill. First, it seeks to give legal rights to the employees in question in regard to tips and I welcome the positive commentary in this regard from across the Chamber. We are all in agreement that this needs to happen. Second, the Bill provides for transparency for the consumer. I take on board Senator Horkan's comment about the need for a lead-in time in regard to this provision. The way forward could be for the information to be provided on a notice board rather than on a menu, for example. This issue could be easily addressed.

  I look forward to working with the Minister and the Department on the Bill. There is no need to be overly prescriptive. This is legislation that works easily in Ontario. We know that the British Government has also acknowledged it needs to address the issue in the UK. If the maddest, most ridiculous Tory Government can recognise that something needs to be done to protect employees, we should be able to reach agreement on the issue.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I am not sure the Senator would agree with it on anything else.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan Senator Horkan is correct in that regard. Let us tease out the issues. We know this legislation works. It is not in any of our interests to make it overly prescriptive because then it would be damaging to employers. There are no tax implications.

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

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan Taxes are not referenced in this Bill. They are not part of this Bill and there will be no tax implications.

  Amendment agreed to.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, to delete lines 12 to 24 and substitute the following:
"(d) An employer who is an ‘associated employer’ as recognised in the Employment Equality Act 1998, may share in tips or other gratuities redistributed under subsection (1) if he or she regularly

performs to a substantial degree the same work performed by—
(i) some or all of the employees who share in the redistribution, or

(ii) employees of other employers in the same industry who commonly receive or share tips or other gratuities.".".

  Amendment agreed to.

  Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 4

  Question proposed: "That section 4 stand part of the Bill."

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen I have previously expressed our concerns about the nature of the sanctions proposed in this instance. This continues to be a source of concern. The Bill is unclear regarding accountability. While everyone would agree that actions such as withholding tips or deductions from an employee's tips are unacceptable, section 4 introduces a criminal offence in respect of the employer in this regard, including upon conviction, a fine or imprisonment. This seems to be particularly unfair given that the employer may have no input in the administration of the distribution of the tips. It might even be argued that any attempted prosecution could fail on the grounds of a lack of fair procedure. We need to consider this carefully before proceeding with the Bill.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Minister of State might engage with Senators on that issue before Report Stage.

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen My officials will work with Senators on it.

  Question put and agreed to.

  Sections 5 and 6 agreed to.

  Title agreed to.

  Bill reported with amendments.

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

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Next Tuesday.

  Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 26 February 2019.

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

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Next Tuesday at 2.30 p.m.

  The Seanad adjourned at 8.05 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 26 February 2019.


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