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Five Scenes from the Seanad February 3, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Scenes from the Seanad, Uncategorized.
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A very subdued new year in the Seanad. A few fireworks a few weeks back, but little truly worth reporting, and the Cathaoirleach and Leas-Cathaoirleach have been a lot less tolerant of rambling and the sort of spats that we have come to know and love. So this last week generally people were on their best behaviour…

I: The past is the present – Part One

Senator Jim D’Arcy:     Notwithstanding our present difficulties, which are great, as a respected member of the international community, from time to time we should consider other matters. In that context, I wish to congratulate the Holocaust Education Trust of Ireland and Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris on the launch of its exhibition, The Holocaust in Europe, which was launched on Monday evening in the Department of Justice and Equality. Time in no way diminishes the horror of the Holocaust. Not alone was it European anti-Semitism which caused it, but in our own country the then Irish ambassador’s advice was that, and I quote, “Ireland should be protected from the contamination that would result from granting residential visas to Jewish refugees”. This resulted in practically no visas being granted.
In this context, I suggest that we in Europe, in Ireland in particular, should take a balanced view of the Palestinian-Israeli situation. While supporting the Palestinian right to statehood, we should also fully support the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure borders. I ask the Leader to note this and to urge the Members of the Seanad to visit that exhibition. I wish to inform the Leader and the House that in my position of education spokesperson for Fine Gael in the Seanad, I will be writing to schools to ask them to visit this exhibition.

II: The past is the present – Part Two

Senator Mark Daly:     Last Saturday marked not alone the 93rd anniversary of this House but also that of the Lower House. It says a lot for us as a Parliament that this event was not marked. Saturday was also the 93rd anniversary of the start of the War of Independence. I was honoured to be in Soloheadbeg for the commemoration and am also honoured to be on the 2016 commemoration committee to which a former Member of this House, Maurice Hayes, has been appointed by the Taoiseach as an advisor. He stated of 2016 — the quotation is from a newspaper so we all know how accurate that can be — that he can see the date being marked by a series of seminars.I do not believe the people of this country expect such an historic event to be marked by seminars.

III: TINA

Senator Ivana Bacik:     I welcome the Government’s debt and bankruptcy relief plan and the publication of the draft general scheme of the personal insolvency Bill. I have the draft scheme here. It is a very lengthy scheme. It was circulated yesterday to the members of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. We will be conducting public hearings on the Bill. To follow what Senator O’Brien said, the scheme is still in draft format.
Senator Darragh O’Brien:     I know that.
Senator Ivana Bacik:     It is subject to legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General, to a report by the joint committee and to submissions from anyone who has an interest in the area. The Minister has let that be known. Changes may still be made.
From my first reading it is not my understanding that it gives powers to the banks. Rather, it will assist the 30,000 home owners who are in arrears and provide, for the first time, a series of measures.
Senator Darragh O’Brien:     I urge the Senator to read the draft again, because the power is with the banks.
Senator Ivana Bacik:     They include a State-run insolvency service, a system of debt release certificates for forgiveness of debt for those who have no assets and no income and are unable to meet qualifying debts totalling up to €20,000, a debt settlement arrangement scheme and a personal insolvency arrangement. A series of measures are set out in the scheme.
The joint committee has been told we have a tight timeframe to report to the Minister. We will be having meetings with the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, MABS, and with the Irish Society of Insolvency Practitioners on 15 February and we will be preparing and publishing a report on the heads of the Bill by the end of February. A meeting for that is scheduled for 22 February. Things are moving very swiftly. There is also a need for consultation on the Bill.
My own reaction to the report on trust in the banking system was amazement that as many as 9% of people still have trust in the banks. I thought it would have been closer to zero.
I welcome the news that the first sale of Irish bonds since 2010 was made yesterday by the National Treasury Management Agency, which sold just over €3.5 billion worth of three year debt.
Senator Jim Walsh:     At an increased interest rate.
Senator Ivana Bacik:     This is the first time any of the three eurozone economies in bailout has succeeded in selling bonds of this maturity. That is an important point. It is welcome, particularly on the day when an unwelcome repayment was made. Those of us on the Government side are, of course, most unhappy at paying the Anglo Irish Bank bond.
Senator Darragh O’Brien:     Another U-turn. Another Labour Party broken promise.
Senator Ivana Bacik:      We saw it as a necessary evil. That was clearly set out by the Tánaiste and by the Minister for Finance yesterday. It is very much an evil and we do not like to have to do it. However, it is a strategy that appears to be working and we are going to work with it in an attempt to ensure that we achieve growth. No real or practical alternative has been offered by those who have been shouting about repaying this bond.
Senator Darragh O’Brien:     The Tánaiste may find oil off Galway.

IV: Congratulations!

Senator Tom Sheahan:     Seldom does one see a politician stand up in the Chamber and compliment a newspaper, but I want to compliment and congratulate the Irish Independent on bestowing on someone who is possibly one of the greatest Kerrymen of all time, Mick O’Dwyer, the hall of fame award.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach:     I am not sure congratulations to Mick are appropriate on the Order of Business, but I will allow the Senator a little wriggle room.
Senator Tom Sheahan:     It is unfortunate that the GAA never saw fit to do that, because this man has done more for the GAA than any of the past five or ten presidents of the GAA have done.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach:     This would be more appropriate to a debate on sport or tourism.
Senator Paschal Mooney:     It is more appropriate to Kerry County Council.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach:     Unfortunately, congratulations are not appropriate on the Order of Business.
Senator Tom Sheahan:     My point is that this is well deserved and long overdue to Mick O’Dwyer. As I said, it is unfortunate the GAA did not do it for the contribution he has made. Would it be appropriate for the Leader, on behalf of this Chamber, to send a letter of congratulations to Mick O’Dwyer, Mary Carmel and the rest of the family?
Senator Darragh O’Brien:     No.

V: And a big Hallo to…
Senator Mary M. White:     Yesterday evening, we had a meeting with the Local Authority Members Association, LAMA, which represents 900 local authority members around the country. The members pleaded with us and sought our support to enhance and strengthen the role of local government and elected members and they had suggestions with regard to the new household and water charges. I support those charges and believe we should have had water charges a long time ago, which is something I raised with my party. The LAMA members want the money from water and household charges to be available to the local authorities and for them to have a say in how it is spent. The meeting was chaired by Councillor Hugh McElvaney and my friend Councillor Noel Bourke. We had a superb presentation from Councillor Enda McGloin. I suggest ——
An Leas-Chathaoirleach:      I hope there is no Seanad election this year.

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