Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1975 [Seanad]: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 3 March 1976

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 288 No. 8

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Question again proposed: “That section 2 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  As was pointed out yesterday, section 2 does not guarantee the removal of the Authority, even though both Houses of the Oireachtas may well have passed the necessary resolution. The Minister agreed yesterday that section 2 was a defective section and needed to be rectified. He indicated that he would have it looked at. At a later stage the Minister stated that he may not be prepared to alter this section. Without alteration, section 2, which is the important section in the Bill, is meaningless, misleading and deceptive. The statements made by the Minister inside and outside both Houses in relation to the Bill have been deceptive and misleading unless the Minister alters section 2. A member of the Authority may be removed by the Government for stated reasons if, and only if, resolutions are passed by both Houses calling for his removal. That does not mean that the man will be removed. It means that even though both Houses have, for stated reasons, decided to pass the resolution, it is then up to the Government [1207] to decide whether they will remove the member of the Authority.

It was pointed out yesterday that this section was misleading, or that it may have been framed this way for some other reason—for instance, to protect the Government or the Minister from pressures that may be forced upon them from time to time. I hope that the Minister will be able to give an assurance to the House that the deception in section 2 will be eliminated so that we will have a clearcut section which will mean exactly what the Minister says is intended and what other members of the Government have said is intended by this section.

Yesterday the Minister indicated that he would have a word with the parliamentary draftsman to see if this important section could be rectified to meet the requirements of the House. I would be rather amazed if the Minister has come back today with no further information for the House, because it is a most serious matter. Section 2, as it stands, can be used in a variety of ways. I pointed out yesterday that there was other legislation passed in this House which was never enacted. The Government are now seeking a way around this situation without having to bring further legislation into the House. The Government have seen the mess which was made by the Minister for Labour in relation to equal pay.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That is quite irrelevant. The Deputy must confine his remarks to section 2.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I am comparing one Bill with the other. This deception must be rectified before this Bill goes through the House. This section was deliberately framed in the manner stated. When I first raised this matter the Minister was very quick on the uptake. He knew exactly what was in my mind when I mentioned the interpretation of this section. The Minister agreed that it was ambiguous and could be used in a variety of ways. Deputy Lalor made a number of suggestions to the Minister. He suggested [1208] that the Opposition could bring forward and get support for a motion from some dissidents on the Government's side.

The Minister should tell us what he really means by section 2, as it is the most important section in this Bill. I hope that, after a night of deep thought and having been found out, the Minister has consulted the parliamentary draftsman in an effort to rectify this gross deception which has been pushed in here and bulldozed through the Seanad. We know that the Bill will be put through the House by the marching forces of the Coalition, even in this deceptive form. The Minister has called for good legislation from time to time. Surely he is not going to allow the principal section of a most important Bill to go through the House in this deceptive manner. The Minister should now give us a clear indication of the action he proposes to take in this regard.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Deputy Dowling raised quite an interesting point here yesterday and I am sorry he is spoiling it a bit today by such phrases as “gross deception”, which he used repeatedly here. There is no deception here, gross or otherwise. I undertook to consult the parliamentary draftsman about the point which he raised, and what I undertook to do I have done. I have consulted him and he has confirmed what I said during the debate yesterday: that section 2 is enabling, not mandatory. It lays down the procedure which the Government must comply with if it wishes to remove the Authority or a member of the Authority from office. It provides that a Government may not dismiss an Authority arbitrarily. If the Government wants to remove the Authority, they may do so for stated reasons and only if resolutions are passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The section does not provide for mandatory removal of the Authority. It was not designed to do this nor do I consider it desirable that it should. However, it does provide very real control by the Oirechtas in the sensitive area. It gives the Oireachtas the power of veto over Government in the matter [1209] of the removal of the Authority from office.

Deputy Lalor asked if an Opposition resolution calling for the removal of the Authority from office were passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas would the Government be obliged to remove them. The answer which really follows from what I have just said is “No”. The position will be the same as in the case of any Opposition motion. It would be a matter for the Government to decide in the light of the circumstances of the time what action they would take.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  There is a complete difference between this and what the Minister told us yesterday. The Minister told us yesterday that, if resolutions were passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, a person would be dismissed and that “may” could be construed as “shall”.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I said if such a resolution was passed on the motion of the Government it was obviously highly unlikely that any Government would then withdraw from that. I did not mean that if the Opposition put down a resolution the Government would be bound by it.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  Does the Minister mean that, even though the Government bring a motion before the House for stated reasons and the House decides to pass that motion, the Government may not.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  It remains theoretically possible under the wording of this Bill.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  The Government would then at that stage yield to pressures if they so desired. What the Minister states today is completely at variance with what he stated yesterday. The Minister stated yesterday that the Authority would be removed if both Houses of the Oireachtas passed the necessary measure here. This is gross deception. It is a way Houses pass the necessary measure. Now it does not mean that a member of the Authority will be removed if the [1210] out, and the Minister and the Government are going to use this device. As I said yesterday, the Minister should lead from the front, not push from behind. If he has the courage of his convictions, he should do exactly what Deputy Collins and Deputy Fitzpatrick stated here yesterday. The Minister has shown clearly that he is going to hide behind the ambiguity of this section, and so indeed are the Government. They are not going to be held up in the future in the same way as Deputy O'Leary was on another Bill. They are not going to be subjected to the type of pressures that Deputy O'Leary was.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Again I appeal to the Deputy not to indulge in irrelevancies or repetition.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  One must take appearances between one piece of legislation and another. We have a principal section of the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1975. We are told one day it means one thing and the next day it means another. Would the Minister make up his mind and take his courage into his hands and do exactly what he stated would be done yesterday? Why has the Minister changed his mind overnight? He can no longer place blame on the parliamentary draftsman or on the civil servants. This is a device to protect the Minister and the Government because they are a gutless and a spineless group.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  One sees through all of this that we have a Minister in office who is prepared to manipulate, who wants to ensure that he has all the organ of publicity available to him, a Minister who is not too concerned with the views of this House but very concerned about the type of image that he himself is putting across. The image for those of us who see him in action is that this Minister's aim seems to be censorship. Not alone is he trying to ensure it in RTE, but also this magnificent liberal image that he so nonchalantly displays when he is talking to students in universities and other selected gatherings is a totally false image.

[1211]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy must relate his remarks to the section.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I think it is very relevant.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I fail to see the relationship.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  A Cheann Comhairle, here is a Minister who is hiding behind the section. He says that even if the Houses of the Oireachtas decided in their collective wisdom to remove a member of the Authority, or the Authority, he need not necessarily go ahead with it. Yesterday's references by the Minister to The Irish Press as the Fianna Fáil organ is typical of the type of gut slander that——

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Is it slander to say a paper is a Fianna Fáil organ?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Yes.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Why should it be?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The impression the Minister was trying to get across— you can look up at the press, they are smiling obediently, because the Minister is very witty, but he was not so witty over the weekend in Limerick when he nearly drowned himself both inside and outside.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Will the Deputy please come back to the section and cease to indulge in personalities.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The Minister indulged yesterday and spoke at length on The Irish Press. You can cover up for him if you like.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We cannot have a repeat of yesterday's debate. If the Deputy makes that kind of allegation he will withdraw it. The Chair is covering up for no one.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  A Cheann Comhairle, if you allowed the Minister to talk about The Irish Press yesterday and about letters between Deputy O'Malley and Deputy Collins I should have the same privilege.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy will withdraw that remark that the Chair is covering up.

[1212]Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  If the Chair would allow me to go ahead and talk about what the Minister said yesterday.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy will relate his remarks to the section of the Bill now under discussion.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  There is no doubt about it that this Minister is in favour of dictatorial powers, that he is endeavouring to hide behind this sort of liberal image he is trying to put across to the people.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy is repeating himself.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  A Cheann Comhairle, if you are going to constantly interrupt while I am speaking and let the Minister speak ad lib——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Chair has a duty to see to it that Members address their remarks to the business before the House. Section 2 of the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill is now under discussion.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The Minister's references yesterday to The Irish Press can be taken only as an indication of his general attitude, not only to free speech in the media but to free speech in general. Anybody who does not agree with the Minister is either a subversive or stupid. I think that as a result of that attitude the Minister is a total fraud in relation to free speech. On the one hand he loves to allege that Fianna Fáil are a reactionary party, and he has some of his colleagues in various newspapers backing him up on that and as a former member of the Irish Communist Party he would seem——

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  What the Deputy has just stated is a lie and I call on him to withdraw it. This is not the first time that Deputies opposite have lied about members of this Government. That statement is a lie.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy will withdraw the reference to communist.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Is the Minister telling us that he was not a member?

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I am.

[1213]Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Or was not associated with the Irish Communist Party?

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I never was associated with the Irish Communist Party.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy will withdraw the remark. I am asking the Deputy to withdraw the reference to “communist” as disorderly.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  For “communist” I will substitute “red”.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy must withdraw unreservedly.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Withdraw what?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The remark that the Minister is a communist.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Or has been. I never was a member of any party except the Irish Labour Party. I ignored the Deputy's abuse but his lies I have to refute.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This must cease. Is the Deputy withdrawing the remark?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  A Cheann Comhairle, what are the alternatives if I do not withdraw the remark?

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  The Minister called the Deputy a liar. Is he going to withdraw that?

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The word “liar” is not going to be attributed to any Member of this House.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  We are not deaf.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am not deaf. The remark was made under provocation. Would the Deputy withdraw?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  If the Minister says that he disowns membership of the Irish Communist Party, I accept that he has disowned it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Does the Deputy withdraw the remark? I take it that he withdraws.

[1214]Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Does the Minister withdraw the word “liar”?

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  On reflection I am prepared to admit the possibility that the untruth uttered by Deputy Crowley here was not deliberate and therefore I withdraw the word “lie” and substitute for it “untruth”.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Crowley now and henceforth may not engage in a second reading speech on this section. He will address his remarks to this section.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I am very anxious to address my remarks to the section but how was it that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs was allowed to refer to The Irish Press?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We are concerned about the business before the House.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I am concerned about my rights as a Member of the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  If the Deputy will not address his remarks to the section I will ask him to sit down.

Mr. Callanan: Information on John Callanan  Zoom on John Callanan  I was here yesterday evening. How did The Irish Press come into the section? I was here during all that debate.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  A Deputy had accused RTE of glamorising the IRA, and I made the point that RTE had less responsibility in this respect and less of a bad record in this respect than some other sections of the media, notably The Irish Press. The matter arose out of a statement by Deputy Gerry Collins regarding——

Mr. Callanan: Information on John Callanan  Zoom on John Callanan  On a point of order, if it was relevant yesterday evening is it not relevant today?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Chair is concerned that Deputies address their remarks to the business of the House—section 2.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I do not see why the Chair should protect the Minister. I would disown him if I were the Ceann Comhairle.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  I understood the Chair's correction of Deputy Crowley [1215] was because he widened the scope of section 2. For my own information, did the Chair also correct the Minister when he did likewise yesterday on section 2?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Chair will not be cross-examined. For the information of the Deputy, I was not in the Chair at the time.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  On a point of order, as an ordinary Member of this House, am I to take it that when people on the Government benches speak they are relevant and are not corrected, but when anyone on this side of the House speaks they are irrelevant and out of order?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  You may not take that. That is not the position and the Deputy knows it.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  The evidence is there and the Ceann Comhairle should look at it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  On section 2, Deputy Crowley.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  Maybe the Minister did not mean Irish Press Limited. He probably meant the Press generally.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Irish Press Limited.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  We know what the Minister is capable of doing. He possesses all the characteristics of the absolute dictator that he is. He is very disdainful of those who disagree with him. I would hate to find myself in the position where the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs had any power over my future or the future of the Irish people. I wonder what is his philosophy in relation to the Press?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy will please discuss the section. The Minister's philosophy in relation to the Press is quite irrelevant.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  He took out letters and read them yesterday. Do I take a letter out of my pocket and start reading it?

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  Does he read all the letters that go through the Post Office?

[1216]Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Maybe he does, for all we know.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy should cease indulging in personalities and deal with the section before us.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  We cannot isolate the fact that we have an evil man in charge of one of our most important publicity media. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs knows well why we view this section with reservations. I would like to know his political philosophy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  If the Deputy persists in this line of personal abuse, with no reference to the business before us, I shall have to ask him to sit down, and I mean that.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I am disappointed to see the Chair adopting this attitude. I would have felt that you would grant me the same facilities you gave the Minister yesterday and I would be entitled to refer to what are fundamentally very important points, as the Minister was allowed to refer to them, and was allowed read letters.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Section 2, Deputy, please.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  A Cheann Comhairle, if you are going to stifle me continuously from referring to these points, the code of fair play seems to have disappeared. After all, I am——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy knows full well he is not entitled to embark on a Second Reading speech on this section.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I do not want to cross-examine the Chair. I appreciate the Chair's difficulty, but nevertheless I should be entitled to the same rights as the Minister. He may be a Minister but he does not have more rights in this House than I have. If he can refer to letters and The Irish Press in a derogatory fashion, surely I am entitled to refer to his remarks on section 2.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy has referred sufficiently to all those matters. He must now get down to the section.

[1217]Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  It is very hard to isolate the political philosophy of the Minister from what is happening in section 2.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy will have to find another time to discuss the political philosophy of any Member of this House.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  This is very important in view of his chequered career——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy is continuing along those lines.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  ——from Congo politics right through to Nkrumah to the point where he joined the party of poltroons.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will have to ask the Deputy to desist. Is he going to obey the Chair and address his remarks to the section or is he going to continue to indulge in personal abuse?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I would like to ask the Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am on my feet, Deputy. Are you going to address your remarks to the section?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Of course, I am. I would like to ask the Minister to say clearly what political principle he stands for and why he is so concerned about the attitude of a paper like The Irish Press which might not be in agreement with what he says.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy is circumventing the ruling of the Chair.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I am trying to say this in exactly the same context as the Minister put it yesterday. I want to find out the connection between the editorial attitude of The Irish Press and section 2. The Minister stands up and says that he disagrees with The Irish Press; yet when we talk about the removal of the authority or a member of the authority under section 2 he says we have not that right. I want to find out what the connection is between his disapproval of the attitude of The Irish Press and [1218] section 2. I also want to ask if he opposes censorship and, if so, to state that he does. Does he believe in freedom of speech and the rights of others to disagree with him? If so, let him stand up and say so. I want to know if he, as Minister, will not allow himself to be associated in any way with those who are trying to subvert the philosophy of the State. We have had too much innuendo and selection by the Minister not alone in relation to this Bill——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I have waited a long time for the Deputy to address his remarks to the section and he has failed to do so. He is making a Second Reading speech which has no relation to the section we are discussing. If the Deputy does not desist, I shall have to ask him to sit down.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  In relation to section 2, where the future of a member of the authority, or the authority, is at stake, if the House decide that the member or the authority must go, the Minister is telling us that he need not take note of that decision. Yet we get some clue to his thinking from the attitude to the letters and the people he referred to yesterday. They are both very relevant if we are to discuss this question intelligently.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I would ask the Deputy not to indulge in repetition or discuss a subject I have ruled to be unrelated to section 2.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The Minister has made many accusations from time to time and again we cannot divorce the two. He described the Labour Party as a bunch of poltroons. He also described Dag Hammarskjold as a homosexual.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  It is clear the Deputy is not interested in section 2. I must ask him to desist forthwith. The Deputy will resume his seat.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  On a point of order, is the Ceann Comhairle telling me that the Minister can talk ad nauseum about private letters and news-papers——

[1219]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy has spoken without referring to the section. He may not cross-examine the Chair.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The Chair is showing himself up in a poor light.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy has had a lot of latitude.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I suggest that the Minister might well withdraw the remarks that he made yesterday regarding The Irish Press because he has given Deputy Crowley and Deputy Dowling great cause for concern.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Chair is anxious that we should not have a rehash of yesterday's debate.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I can well understand the Chair would wish to dissociate——

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I wish to point out that the whole trouble stems from the fact that the Minister evidently made a speech here yesterday in which he impugned The Irish Press——

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  No, I was referring to Fianna Fáil——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  He left the showers running in the hotel and nearly drowned himself over the weekend.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  Could the Minister withdraw his remarks or apologise to the House for what he said yesterday and we could start afresh?

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  No.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I think that behind Deputy Crowley's concern, which I can well appreciate, is the fact that we are now only eight years away from 1984 and all that George Orwell foresaw and the Minister by his attitude now and then appears to be like Big Brother. The Opposition are very determined that freedom of speech will live. That is part of our job.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Section 2, please.

[1220]Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I suggest that the Minister withdraw those remarks and we could start afresh.

Mr. Callanan: Information on John Callanan  Zoom on John Callanan  I did not take part in the debate yesterday. The Minister gave the impression yesterday that in the interests of democracy, he being a real democrat, before he would dismiss the RTE Authority the matter would come before the Oireachtas and that would be the decision. But today, if I heard aright, he tells us that even though the two Houses decide that he should or should not dismiss, he can still do as he wishes afterwards. I was not so much in favour of the amendment because I thought this perhaps was a great exercise in democracy that the Minister should come here with his proposal on the basis that the decision would be made by the Oireachtas and would be taken out of the Minister's hands. Apparently this is only an exercise and an attempt to appear to be democratic and that it is actually the Minister who makes the final decision. Section 2 in that case is completely irrelevant and we have spent two days discussing it. Deputy Dowling brought out this very forcibly when he said that, no matter what decision this House or the Seanad make, the Minister is the man who makes the final decision to remove the Authority or not. If that is so what is the idea of section 2? Why bring a proposal here and to the Seanad and then not agree with the decision on it? The Minister on his own still makes the decision.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I should like to reply to Deputy Callanan. I think his interest in the point is sincere and he is a Deputy who is respected by all this House.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Unlike the Minister.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I want to clarify the point raised. The point about this section is that it obliges the Government, before they can dismiss an Authority, to put the matter to the Oireachtas and unless the Oireachtas pass resolutions approving that, they cannot remove them but it does not transfer to the Oireachtas [1221] the decision on removing the Authority. It gives the Oireachtas a veto; it does not give it an initiative in this matter. I hope that is clear. My only point in speaking is to clarify the matter for a Deputy who, I believe is genuinely seeking information. I do not intend to reply to the tirade of vulgar and dull abuse we have just heard from Deputy Crowley. I think his own party are probably a little ashamed of it.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  The Minister has questioned the sincerity of Members of this House; I question his sincerity.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Would the Deputy please keep to the section?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  On a point of order, the Chair is showing complete bias. The Minister can stand up and accuse and say what he likes. We know what he is like, that he will jump on any convenient band-waggon; whether it is Nkrumah in Ghana, Lumumba in the Congo or Dag Hammarskjöld, he will go along. He talks about sincerity. He has worn so many political hats that he must not have one ounce of sincerity and yet the Chair protects that man and does not give us a chance——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy knows that is untrue. The Chair is seeking to maintain order and decorum in this House and eliminate personal abuse which gives rise to disorder. I am calling Deputy Dowling on the section without reference to personalities, please.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  The Minister has given a short answer to Deputy Callanan and questioned the sincerity of other Members. The Minister has been firing a good deal of flak on this section in the past day or so. He has been hawking letters around to support his case for section 2. I can understand how Deputy Crowley has become agitated by the tactics of the Minister in trying to bulldoze section 2 through the House and at the level to which the Minister descended yesterday regarding the letters and the reading of correspondence. I could read letters here today from the Minister to other [1222] people but I would not stoop to that level. So could Deputy Crowley or any other Deputy.

We have been told that in the first instance we had a Broadcasting Authority Act under which the Government could remove members of the Authority but the great liberal minds of the present Government and the Minister decided that the Authority be taken from the Government and that the two Houses of the Oireachtas should have the decision. That impression was created in the Seanad and in this House in the discussions on this Bill. Now, under section 2, notwithstanding the fact that the Government for stated reasons come to the Oireachtas and the Oireachtas decide in favour of the Government's reasons for the removal of a member of the Authority, at that stage pressure can be applied to the Government which in the first instance deemed it necessary to bring before the Oireachtas a matter of grave public concern and to ask the House to pass a Bill that would give them authority to remove a member. Having reached that stage they decide that they may not act if the pressures are great enough.

The Minister must be positive in this section. Yesterday he said he would consult the parliamentary draftsman to see if an alternative could be found. He agreed yesterday that there was a problem there, that the ambiguity of the section needed consideration and he was prepared to ask the parliamentary draftsman to devise a suitable form of words that would be more definite.

Today he tells us, probably having consulted the liberal minded personnel in Government, who want a safety valve of one type or another, that he is not prepared to do this. He came into the House today and indicated in quite different terms altogether what is meant by section 2. Section 2 must mean the same thing on a Wednesday as it does on a Tuesday but apparently from the Minister's point of view it can mean one thing on Tuesday, another thing on Wednesday and possibly something different on Thursday. The Minister will have to make up his mind where he stands, if he stands by his Tuesday pronouncement or by his [1223] Wednesday announcement. We know that this Government operate from day to day with day-to-day policies. In relation to such a serious section in this Bill as the removal of the Authority the Minister must at least be positive in relation to this matter. Will the Minister stand by what he stated in the House yesterday, that he would consult the parliamentary draftsman to obtain a suitable form of words to ensure that the section is one with meaning and that it is left with no ambiguity whatsoever? If he does not do that he is a fraud. He says one thing one day and another thing the next.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Some confusing statements have been made by Deputies opposite and I believe some people may be genuinely confused about this. I would like to quote again what I said on the 28th October, 1975 in this House. I quote from the Official Report, Volume 285, column 385, when I referred to this section. It is a very simple section, although people afterwards, who read this extraordinarily long debate on it, may be puzzled about it. I said:

The Bill contains a number of other provisions conferring additional powers and independence on the Authority. Section 2 confers greater security of tenure on the Authority by providing that a member may be removed from office by the Government for stated reasons and only if resolutions are passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Under the existing Act, of course, members of the Authority can be removed by the Government without the necessity to state reasons.

This section provides that a member may be removed from office by the Government for stated reasons and only if resolutions are passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. That is all the section does and that is all it claims to do. Unless new matter of substance is raised I do not propose to contribute further to the discussion on this section. I do not propose to go over extremely repetitive matter.

[1224]Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  May I ask one question?

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Yes, if it is a real one.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  Is there any necessity to come to both Houses of the Oireachtas when the Government can decide one way or the other? Once the resolution is passed it does not make any difference to the Government.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  The point is, if the Deputy is genuinely seeking information—I think it is possible that he may be—if the Oireachtas does not grant the Government the power then the Government may not act. That is the point. The Deputy's own spokesman I believe sees that.

Mr. Callanan: Information on John Callanan  Zoom on John Callanan  I see the Minister's point and I understand the explanation that if the Houses of the Oireachtas do not give him the power he cannot sack. I cannot for the life of me see what is the idea if the Minister has made up his mind to remove the Authority and brings the matter before the two Houses of the Oireachtas and both Houses say “O.K.”, the Government could still have power to change their mind through any kind of pressure or otherwise that might be brought on any Minister. I cannot see why if it works one way that it does not work the other. I cannot understand the section for that reason.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  The Deputy is quite right and there has been some distraction from this. These provisions will apply under any Minister and not just under the present Minister. The point is that what the Government have in mind is to give the Oireachtas a veto over the Government's power of dismissal of members of the authority. That is all it means. While I agree that in theory it remains possible under this section for a Government to come in and say: “We want to dismiss the Authority,” state the reasons, get the green light to do that and then for some reason change their mind. It is politically extremely unlikely, the [1225] Deputy will agree, that that would be so. If this were put in another form, if it were made mandatory, then it would in effect transfer the initiative in dismissing members of the Authority from the Government, where it rightly belongs—Deputies opposite have stressed that—to any [1226] Member of the House.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  What about the Contraceptives Bill?

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  It has nothing to do with it.

Question put.

Barry, Peter.
Barry, Richard.
Begley, Michael.
Belton, Luke.
Belton, Paddy.
Bermingham, Joseph.
Bruton, John.
Burke, Dick.
Burke, Joan T.
Burke, Liam.
Byrne, Hugh.
Cluskey, Frank.
Collins, Edward.
Conlan, John F.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cooney, Patrick M.
Corish, Brendan.
Cosgrave, Liam.
Costello, Declan.
Coughlan, Stephen.
Crotty, Kieran.
Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Dockrell, Maurice.
Donegan, Patrick S.
Donnellan, John.
Enright, Thomas.
Esmonde, John G.
Finn, Martin.
FitzGerald, Garret.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Gilhawley, Eugene.
Governey, Desmond.
Griffin, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Patrick.
Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
Jones, Denis F.
Keating, Justin.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
Kyne, Thomas A.
L'Estrange, Gerald.
Lynch, Gerard.
McLaughlin, Joseph.
McMahon, Larry.
Malone, Patrick.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Connell, John.
O'Donnell, Tom.
O'Sullivan, John L.
Pattison, Seamus.
Reynolds, Patrick J.
Ryan, John J.
Ryan, Richie.
Spring, Dan.
Staunton, Myles.
Taylor, Frank.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Toal, Brendan.
Tully, James.
White, James.

Allen, Lorcan.
Andrews, David.
Barrett, Sylvester.
Brady, Philip A.
Brennan, Joseph.
Briscoe, Ben.
Brosnan, Seán.
Brugha, Ruairí.
Burke, Raphael P.
Callanan, John.
Calleary, Seán.
Carter, Frank.
Collins, Gerard.
Connolly, Gerard.
Crinion, Brendan.
Cronin, Jerry.
Crowley, Flor.
Daly, Brendan.
de Valera, Vivion.
Dowling, Joe.
Fahey, Jackie.
Farrell, Joseph.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzgerald, Gene. [1227]Nolan, Thomas.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Connor, Timothy.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond.
Power, Patrick.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
Flanagan, Seán.
French, Seán.
Gallagher, Denis.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Gibbons, Hugh.
Gibbons, James.
Gogan, Richard P.
Haughey, Charles.
Healy, Augustine A.
Hussey, Thomas.
Kenneally, William.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Leonard, James.
Loughnane, William.
Lynch, Celia.
Lynch, Jack.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
MacSharry, Ray.
Meaney, Tom.
Molloy, Robert.
Moore, Seán.
Murphy, Ciarán. [1228]Smith, Patrick.
Timmons, Eugene.
Tunney, Jim.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Wyse, Pearse.

Question declared carried

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin Central): I move amendment No. 2:

Before section 3 to insert a new section as follows:—

“The Principal Act is hereby amended by the substitution in section 4 (1) of “ten” for “seven” and “twelve” for “nine”.

Section 4 (1) of the Principal Act states:

The members of the Authority shall be appointed by the Government and shall be not less than seven and not more than nine in number.

My reason for putting forward this amendment is that we will shortly establish a second channel. It is argued that the Authority should be more representative than it is at the moment. We propose, therefore, that it should be enlarged to 12. In that way we believe far better representation would be given to that part of the country known as the single channel area. This is in line with our policy of establishing a programming council with which we will be dealing later on. We believe the additional representatives should represent the single channel areas. We know from our experience of the survey that was carried out that people in the single channel areas were under the impression that RTE were Dublin orientated and eastern orientated. RTE 2 must be seen to be completely impartial. It must reflect the views of those for whom it will cater. The Minister's idea of rebroadcasting the BBC in its entirety has now been shelved. It is important that we establish a proper framework within which the second channel will operate efficiently and effectively and we believe that enlarging the Authority will achieve that.

Up to now the Authority were concerned with just one programme but, after the establishment of RTE 2, they will be concerned with a second channel. We believe that second channel will give the people wider choice of programme as against the Minister's proposal to rebroadcast BBC. Our view is that there can be a selection of programmes from BBC 1, BBC 2 and UTV in conjunction with regional programmes. This will certainly provide a much wider choice of programme. To ensure this the Authority must be given autonomy to ensure a proper expression of views and a proper representation of ideas.

In the 1960 Act the number was confined to nine. We propose to extend that to 12. I am sure the Minister will accept our point of view because the Authority will play a vital role. If there is proper representation from what is now the single channel area I believe that will enhance the Authority and contribute to a better second channel. It is for that reason we put forward this amendment.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  There are two points involved here, specific numbers and composition or the thought behind the change in numbers. The present minimum number is seven and the maximum number is nine. They were laid down in the Broadcasting Act, 1960, and they have not given rise to any difficulties. The size of the board is in line with comparable State-sponsored bodies. As far as a magnitude of the board is concerned I do not, therefore, see any need for enlargement.

[1229] I can understand the idea behind the Deputy's amendment and it is with some regret that I feel I cannot after all accept it. First of all, in the nature of things any Government appointing any Authority are likely to draw the members from different parts of the country. No Government are likely to select an entire team of Dubliners or Corkmen or representatives of any single part of the country. The idea of establishing what might be described as sectional representation seems to me to conflict with the collective principle to which we should subscribe. In the present Authority the numbers, who may be from any part of the country, join in discussions affecting programming and so on. Under the enlarged responsibility I envisage the general responsibility as essentially the same. I do not envisage one section concerned primarily with one channel and another section concerned primarily with another channel. I envisage the whole Authority as a widely representative group concerned with both channels and with the relationship of one to the other. I believe that will be the most satisfactory way of proceeding. I do not think the extra channel warrants the change suggested. I understand the Deputy's intention and I regret that, on consideration, I cannot agree with his view and cannot therefore accept his amendment.

Mr. Callanan: Information on John Callanan  Zoom on John Callanan  I am disappointed that the Minister is not accepting this amendment. The eastern part of the country will have several channels to choose from while the rest of the country will have only RTE 1 and RTE 2. When the question of the second channel was being considered I consulted many people and they were all in favour of RTE 2 with the proviso that there should be more regional representation on the board and that the programme should be more regionalised.

With all due respect to RTE 1, I must say that the people in the west think RTE leaves a lot to be desired and that the people down the country could do better. While some of the programmes are good, the people in the single-channel areas are not very happy about the choice available to [1230] them. That is why I support this amendment advocating that there should be greater representation on the board and that that representation should be from the single-channel areas.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I support this amendment. I believe it is very important, may be not so much to expand the one-channel area as to ensure that it is properly represented. Naturally those people who live in the multi-channel area and who are on this Authority may not be interested in seeing again the programmes they have already seen on BBC 1, BBC 2, UTV or ITV. Increased membership would ensure that those in the one-channel area would have people looking after their interests.

How many people looking at Alexander Solzhenitsyn the night before last would not be impressed by the warning he gave to the world about the spread of Communism? Certainly the people of Ireland should have the opportunity of seeing such programmes. Perhaps then the Minister's fellow travellers would not be riding on the crest of the wave as they are. The Minister called me a liar a while ago when I accused him of membership of the Communist Party. He denied it categorically.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Does the Deputy require me to repeat the assertion?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Did he not go to a Communist Congress in Poland?

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  No.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The Minister did not?

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  No, I did not.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  This is not relevant to the debate.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I think it is very relevant and I was taking one specific programme——

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  As one of the Deputy's slanders has broken down he is trying to bring up other ones.

[1231]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy on the amendment.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  It is very important that such programmes as the Solzhenitsyn programme put out on BBC 2 the night before last would be shown on RTE 2 when we have it or, indeed, on RTE 1, but we have no way of enforcing that at the moment. That is why I am in complete agreement with the amendment, which proposes proper regional representation. If the Minister has his way in relation to representation the one-channel area will suffer, and again rural Ireland will not have the choice it desires.

This is a very reasonable amendment. There is nothing political in it. It will ensure the broadest possible viewpoint in the selection of programmes, but most important of all, it will try to ensure that people in the one-channel area are adequately represented and that the type of programmes that are selected from the multi-channel area are ones that they themselves are interested in. That can only be done if there is representation from the one-channel area. The way to ensure that type of representation is not alone to increase the membership of the board but to write into the Bill, if necessary, the regional representation on the board.

We have already seen examples of what can happen to people in rural Ireland when we have the metropolitan bias that is practised by the Government. To counteract the Minister and his fellow travellers we should have as many people as possible who understand what is needed in the country and who understand the type of programmes the people they represent would like. Such members should be our representatives there, and it should not be left to a number of people in Dublin to decide for us the type of programme they think we should have. The programme on BBC 2 the night before last is a typical programme that should be seen by the whole country, but if the Minister had his way that is the type of programme we would not see. That is why I support the increased representation proposed by Deputy Fitzpatrick.

[1232]Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I said something on this in reply to Deputy Fitzpatrick that covers the matter in general. I would like to add to it just this, that when we speak of putting extra, sectional representation on to the Authority to cover the needs of single-channel viewers in relation to RTE 2, it is important to bear in mind that the second RTE channel is not only to single-channel viewers but to all viewers, because it will have to be supported and a licence fee paid by all viewers. Therefore all members of the authority should be responsive to the needs of all viewers.

The second channel is a second national channel, not an extension to the single-channel area of a service already available in the multi-channel area. Further, it is to be run as a complement to the existing channel, so that there is to be a single balanced national service on two channels. That concept of a single balanced national service on two channels requires a single authority, not sectionally divided. For one who takes that view, like myself, a numerical expansion of the Authority is not then required. As I said, this Authority and, I imagine, all past Authorities and any future Authority are likely to be composed of a number of people familiar with the needs and views of the different regions of this island.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  The Minister has stated that the present numbers have not given rise to any difficulties. That may be so but the Minister is also aware that when you increase the role of any Department you must increase the staff. This is a very reasonable amendment and one that the Minister should accept. It is not a question of sectional representation. It is a question of a broad base of opinion and where best that broad base of opinion can come from. The Minister must take into consideration the existing situation in relation to the services which are available at the moment. A very large broad base of opinion is necessary and desirable. On some occasions, as the Minister is well aware, in relation to increasing strength, it must be weighed one way or the other. Deputies Callanan, [1233] Fitzpatrick and Crowley have indicated the question of weighting. Where there is to be programme balancing of one type or another in which members of the Authority will have a say, the broader base of opinion would be of more value than any limitation to the present base of opinion.

The Minister must also bear in mind that the present Authority are oriented towards a particular type of service and that the introduction of new personnel with new views would direct their attention to some greater degree to the extension of the service which we hope to have some time in the future. With the advent of the second channel I hope that the Minister will agree to an extension. Like everyone else I have certain reservations about the manner in which they would be appointed but I see no reason why there should not be an increase in the members of the Authority. I would ask the Minister to have a second look at this matter before Report Stage and accept Deputy Fitzpatrick's amendment.

The increasing role of the Authority brings many additional responsibilities with it. The balancing of programmes by the Authority themselves, as distinct from the controllers of programmes, is a matter that will be receiving the attention of the Authority in the future. I do not know whether the Authority acts collectively all the time or whether they break up into sub-committees of one type or another to examine one or other aspect of RTE. An extension of the service would give the Authority a desirable strength if they wished to set aside the use of specialists. Having regard to the small Authority which we have at the moment it would be almost impossible for any division. The Minister should have another look at this before Report Stage. He should not completely reject it because the parliamentary draftsmen have not written this section themselves.

As it so often happens, however good the amendment may be it is dispensable because it comes from a Member of the Opposition. On this occasion I would ask the Minister to [1234] be generous, to examine it, and to come back again rather than reject it out of hand. The Minister has indicated that he has examined it to some degree. Deputy Fitzpatrick examined it in great depth and has consulted, possibly, a greater number of people than the Minister who has made the decision.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  First of all, I should like to say that Deputy Dowling's contention that amendments are rejected simply because they come from the Opposition is not correct and, indeed, I can demonstrate that it is not correct because if Deputies will refer to the proceedings of the Seanad they will see that there I accepted a goodly number of amendments coming from the Opposition, not only from the independent members of the Opposition, but from members of the Fianna Fáil Party there, including Senator Yeats, to whose work in improving the Bill as it stands I would like, if I may, to pay tribute here. I find myself unable to accept the amendments which have been put in here, which may, perhaps, be due to the fact that the Bill received such a long and good going-over in the Seanad that the range of outside amendments, as you might say, which were at the same time acceptable to the Government, became exhausted.

As regards the contention that because there is going to be a second channel there should be an increase in the numbers of the Authority, I think this rests on a fallacy. The staff of RTE will be increased. I do not know how large the increase called for will be, but there will be some increase necessary. This does not necessitate an increase in the number of people on the board any more than it would be necessary to increase the numbers on the board of an expanding company. We can see this if we look at the practice of other State-sponsored bodies whose functions have increased over the years. Some of these have far greater numbers of staff employed than has RTE and their activities are more diverse than are those of RTE, yet they have managed with the same size [1235] of board. For example, the maximum size of the board of CIE, I understand, is eight.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The have done well.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  The ESB has seven and the IDA nine. Deputy Dowling referred to this as a reasonable amendment. I do not deny that like other amendments put down it is reasonable in its intention, but even against a reasonable proposition weightier reasons may sometimes be found on the other side and it appeared to me that this is the case in relation to this amendment. For that reason I regretfully cannot accept it.

Ruairí Brugha: Information on Ruairí Brugha  Zoom on Ruairí Brugha  I should like to add a few words in favour of this amendment. I acknowledge that the Minister accepted some amendments in the Seanad. This is a “not more than” situation—in other words, it is not more than ten where the existing membership of the Authority is nine:

not less than seven and not more than nine

to be amended to:

not less than ten and more than twelve.

I would like to put this point to the Minister: I agree that the number nine, the existing number, is a reasonable spread. Prior to having been appointed a member of the Authority I had the general idea that for anybody accustomed to business to have anything more than three would be a damn nuisance, but my experience of the Authority of nine was that it worked satisfactorily and that this spread seemed to be reasonable. However, there is the additional complication of RTE 2. There is another aspect of it that the Minister might consider, bearing in mind the “not less than ten” formula in this amendment, which means the Government do not necessarily have to appoint 12, that this Authority, having the staff problem that I was aware of from time to time, could perhaps do with a couple more representatives from those working in RTE. I suggest that as something the [1236] Minister might think about. It is in my experience a very sensitive organisation. The Minister himself may have been described as in a sort of glass bowl. Those working in it are subject to many pressures. I know one of these executives is a member of the present Authority.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  If I might, with the Deputy's permission interrupt, at the time this member was appointed I do not think he could have accurately been described as a senior executive. He is, of course, now.

Ruairí Brugha: Information on Ruairí Brugha  Zoom on Ruairí Brugha  It seems to me that the Minister might consider the true aspects, one of which is the additional responsibility of RTE 2, and the programming requirements, very important when one considers what can be done with RTE 2 on the one hand and the advantage that might be derived from having perhaps one or two members of those working in Telefís Éireann on the Authority. I put that forward as an idea that may be useful in future. RTE is, as I have said, a tension-filled organisation, and the greater the level of co-operation between the Authority and those working in it the better.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin Central): The Minister mentioned various companies and I agree with him. I know other commercial companies with smaller boards, but it is easier to make decisions in regard to commercial companies than it is in the RTE Authority. What would be of vital importance here, especially when the second channel is established, is balancing—balancing programmes and balancing representation, especially where the second-channel area and all the various complementary programmes that will go with it are concerned. That is why we consider enlargement of the Authority essential. We have not written into the Bill that a particular new member should represent the second-channel area, but we would take it for granted that the Minister if he accepted that amendment would appoint these additional members from the single-channel area. I [1237] would not like to think that we are sectionalising the Authority. They must work as a team.

However, the views reflected within the Authority are important. As we have seen before regarding committees and boards, a person living in a particular part of the country or having knowledge of a special subject will always be consulted in regard to what he would think of a given subject. If members of boards—maybe the majority—are from the east coast it would be difficult for them to get knowledge of what the requirements would be of people in the single-channel areas in the west and south. These additional appointees, if the Minister accepts them, would represent the views from that area. I do not say that there are not members on the board from that part of the country. I am not sure where they come from. Do the majority represent the east coast where at the moment we are in reception of the multi-channel service? Is there a big proportion of the present Authority from the single-channel areas? This is important if the views and requirements of people living in the single-channel area are to be satisfied.

I have the fullest confidence in the present board. I am not criticising them, but I believe that when the new channel is established, if it is to work properly and present the programmes I believe it is capable of doing, balancing and proper representation are of vital importance. We must be seen to be doing something about it. The first step is this enlargement of the Authority. When we go through the amendments we will be talking about the establishment of programme councils and various factors, but it is important that the Authority are first. This is where we can start. We are trying to ensure that the Authority can function properly.

I can see Deputy Dowling's point. In every company and in every committee there are times when it is necessary for a small subcommittee to be formed. You do it in Government, you do it in cabinets, to decide certain issues. There may be a time when a subcommittee [1238] within the Authority may be formed.

It is on those lines that we are asking the Minister to accept the amendment. I have referred already to the importance of the question of the balancing of programmes and proper regional representation in so far as the second channel is concerned. This second channel will be of equal importance to those living in the multi-channel areas so we must approach the question in that light. People on the east coast will be benefiting too from the second channel but we are trying at this early stage to ensure that we are proceeding in the right direction in relation to the Authority.

The Authority should reflect the views of people in all areas but if the Minister is increasing the Authority he should be thinking in terms of people in the single-channel areas. Can the Minister give us any idea as to the number of people on the present Authority who represent (a) single-channel areas and (b) the multi-channel areas? That information may not be available. However, it is along these lines that we have submitted our amendment which is aimed at ensuring that the second channel will be successful and will be accepted. One of the best ways of ensuring its acceptability is to have represented the views of all concerned.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I do not regard the set up of the present Authority as being relevant. The problems we are talking of arise in relation to the new channel which will be the medium through which we hope to rebroadcast what we consider to be the better programmes of BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV.

The question that concerns us is the composition of the new board. I say this because a person living outside a single-channel area could hardly be expected to understand the needs of that area. Also, there is the factor that those who live in the multi-channel areas may be inclined to select programmes from the European networks because they would have seen already the programmes we have mentioned.

[1239]Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  The Authority do not select the programmes.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  They take the ultimate responsibility for the selection of programmes but if they have no say in the matter why are we talking here about people living in single- or in multi-channel areas? It is important that the Authority understand exactly the needs of the single-channel areas. The people in those areas are entitled to representation on the Authority. The Minister talked about a second channel being complementary to the existing channel but so far as we are concerned it is an extension because it means that those of us in the single-channel areas will be able to see programmes not broadcast on RTE 1, that we will be seeing the best programmes from other channels. Therefore, the residential qualification is very important. The Minister spoke of not being in favour of a sectional bias. Neither am I in favour of a sectional bias but I advocate a regional bias because one's outlook in relation to television is governed to a large extent by the area in which one lives. Therefore, the more we discuss the matter the more obvious it becomes that we need an extension of the membership so that the Authority can break up into committees or sub-committees. I cannot understand why the Minister cannot accept the amendment. He has told us of amendments being accepted in the Seanad so I wonder why he is not prepared to accept this one. It is an amendment which is non-controversial and non-political but which is very valid. In particular, it would give much reassurance to those who live in the single-channel areas. I ask the Minister to consider it.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I will be brief because much of this ground has been covered already. However, there are one or two points that have been raised which are new. First, I introduced the comparison in point of numbers between RTE and other State-sponsored bodies to show that the RTE board did not appear to be too small. Deputy Fitzpatrick made the point that the complexity of the [1240] responsibilities of the RTE Authority is of a different kind, entails different sensitivities, from those choices which come before other State bodies. I accept that entirely and I am not asserting that because RTE are smaller than other State bodies they are in any way inferior.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin Central): My remark was not meant in that light.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I am agreeing with the Deputy but the suggestion that the RTE board were on a lower level could have been read into what I said. I did not mean that and I am endeavouring to clarify it now

The responsibilities of the RTE Authority are great and to some extent—though, perhaps, one could exaggerate the extent—are increased by the addition of a new channel. However, I do not think that increasing size, increasing the numerical strength of the Authority, would necessarily make them more capable of handling these complexities. Deputy Brugha said something which suggested that at one point at least he shared the view that a State body might become too large. That danger exists. From his experience as a member of an authority I think Deputy Brugha will agree that nine is a good number. If it works well, and I think it does, I would prefer not to change it.

The question was raised by some Deputies opposite—though one Deputy held it not to be relevant—of the province of the present members of the Authority and if a majority represent eastern counties. In appointing the Authority the Government did not appoint the members in any representative capacity. The Government appointed them for their ability and capacity to make a contribution to the work of the Authority and bore in mind the usefulness of knowing and being aware of the problems of different parts of the country. A majority of the members reside in Dublin, as one would expect and as may be true of other authorities.

[1241]Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  And yet only 18 per cent of the people in Dublin look at RTE.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  A number of the members have connections with other parts of the country. For example, the chairman, Donal Ó Móráin, who resides in Dublin, is identified by his interest with the south-west rather than with Dublin city. This is fairly satisfactory. I cannot accept the case for an expansion of the Authority on the basis suggested.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The Minister is more than glib when he talks about the members of the Authority having a connection with the single-channel area. They could have a telephone connection; it depends on the definition the Minister wishes to attribute to “connection”.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  A telephone connection is not much good these days.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  It is a very chastening experience to get somebody on the telephone. Where a member of the Authority resides is of vital importance. I would not, with a stroke of the Minister's right hand, dismiss it as unimportant. The point of the amendment is to ensure proper regional representation on the Authority. I have serious misgivings about the composition of the new board when the Minister talks about connections with the single-channel areas as justification for appointing people who are resident in Dublin. I know the Minister is very careful with the words he uses on these occasions, like his contradiction a while ago. On that occasion he was careful in the type of language he selected. We seek an assurance from the Minister that we will have proper representation from the single-channel areas because we are the people who understand what it is like to have one channel. It is important that we get programmes such as that seen on BBC 2 recently, an interview with Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who pointed out how the West was conceding to Communism and the various socialist groups emerging in [1242] Europe. He said that we would end up with totalitarian states everywhere and Russia taking us all over. This may please the Minister because anyone who went to Poland to attend a communist congress must have a certain sympathy for them.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  That is an untruth.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy ought not to persist in personal abuse of this kind. It is unnecessary and irrelevant.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Is the Minister denying that he attended such a congress?

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I am not denying that I ever attended a meeting in Poland or anywhere else; I am denying that I attended a communist meeting. I have been to Eastern Europe like other Deputies and other Irish people.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  That is very interesting.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I would ask the Deputy to desist from irrelevancies and personal abuse of this kind.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  One notices that those whose own careers consist mainly of abuse and vilification can be very sensitive themselves.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Chair is anxious that the amendment be discussed without indulging in personalities from either side of the House.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The Minister thinks that by calling somebody a liar nobody will believe what has been said, but I will let the people judge.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  The Deputy has repeated an unproven assertion which has been denied. I think that is unparliamentary.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The fact that the Minister flew off the handle so quickly and so disastrously as far as he was concerned is proof of the allegation I made.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  A fine sense of proof.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Before I was so [1243] rudely interrupted by the Minister again, whose inane intervention brings this debate to a new low, even for him, I was about to state that I do not trust the Minister. I want to have written into the Bill an assurance of the type of representation desirable in the single-channel area. The Minister has conceded that even those who have a remote connection—even a telephone connection—with the single-channel area is sufficient qualification for membership of the board.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin Central): If the Minister was appointing the RTE Authority today he would have to give certain representation to the single-channel areas. I have every confidence in the present board but the Minister should realise that representation from the single-channel area is necessary on the Authority, particularly in view of the fact that the second channel will come into operation soon. In moving this amendment we were anxious to enlarge the membership of the authority. With the establishment of the second channel I hope the Minister will give consideration to the place of residence of the members of the Authority and see to it that the west and south-west of the country are represented on the Authority.

It is important that the second channel is accepted from the start. We do not wish to make the Authority too cumbersome but we should take into consideration the sensitivity and balancing required on this type of authority. RTE may not be a big concern in comparison with, for instance, CIE, the board of which consists of nine members, and I am aware that important decisions are taken by authorities with a small membership as efficiently as they are by authorities consisting of more than nine members.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.


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