Wednesday, 21 June 1978
Dáil Eireann Debate
Dr. Browne: asked the Minister for Economic Planning and Development the total number of people unemployed in Cork city, together with the corresponding figures for each of the past ten years; the percentage these figures represent of the available workforce; and the measures he proposes to take to solve this problem.
Minister for Economic Planning and Development (Professor O'Donoghue): : The following statement provides information on the total number of persons on the live register at Cork employment office at mid-March each year over the past ten years.
|Year||Number on the live register|
Mr. Cluskey: : On a point of order, there is no desire on the part of my party, or I am sure on the part of the other Opposition party, to disrupt the proceedings of this House and there is no desire to challenge the Chair's ruling just for the sake of challenging it, but a very fundamental point has been raised. The Ceann Comhairle has ruled out of order the right of Deputies to elicit legitimate information from a Minister in anticipation of a forthcoming debate. I respectfully suggest that that is the whole purpose of Question Time. I have witnessed on numerous occasions the Ceann Comhairle ruling Deputies out of order by saying that they were engaging in a debate and that the purposes of Question Time was to elicit information. There is no logic in that ruling.
An Ceann Comhairle: : There is no point in trying to make a debate out of something which is not in order now. If the Deputies wish to question the manner in which these questions submitted are ruled out, they may bring it up with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
Dr. FitzGerald: : Deputies are entitled to rise on a point of order and to ask for the precedents under which something has been done here. Under what precedent is it proposed to rule out of order questions because of an Adjournment debate? Once we concede that ruling there are no questions which can be asked that cannot be ruled out of order.
An Ceann Comhairle: : The Standing Orders of this House have been questioned time and again at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges but not here. I will convey the precedents and reasons to the Deputy. I have already conveyed them to the Deputy.
Dr. FitzGerald: : The question of precedent has been mentioned here and there could not be a precedent for the ruling out of order of questions because of an Adjournment debate because that would rule out of order all questions before an Adjournment debate because in an Adjournment debate anything can be raised. I cannot believe that the Ceann Comhairle intends a ruling of that kind. We must have misunderstood the Chair's intention. Some narrower ruling than that must have been in mind because that would undermine the whole purpose of Question Time in this House. I would ask, therefore, in the interests of order in the House that the Ceann Comhairle define more narrowly and precisely the basis for the ruling and to give precedents for it.
An Ceann Comhairle: : We will have no more discussion on this matter. We are establishing a precedent now that every question ruled out can be discussed at Question Time. It may not be discussed now.
Mr. Quinn: : Am I to understand that the Chair has been informed that the House is to be officially aware that the Adjournment Debate is to be confined exclusively to the Green Paper? In that case why not have a debate on the Green Paper and not hold an Adjournment Debate at all?
An Ceann Comhairle: : The question is not going to be discussed further now. The House has discussed it more than sufficiently. I promised Deputy FitzGerald that I would convey to him the reasons for the ruling.
Dr. FitzGerald: : I should like to suggest that as what is at stake here is the right to ask questions on any matter that has been challenged prior to the Adjournment Debate, we now adjourn to enable you to give us this information and precedent because we cannot allow this to pass. It challenges the fundamental rights of this House.
An Ceann Comhairle: : The Deputy may not allow it to pass but he will  not raise it here; it never is. There is nothing new in ruling out questions. There is a book of precedents two inches thick which covers the questions——
Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan): I understand that the question has been ruled out because it may be raised on the Adjournment Debate. As I understand it all of the activities and inactivities of the Government over the last 12 months will be proper for discussion on the Adjournment Debate.
Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan): That is no use when the rights of Deputies in this House are at stake and every question placed on this Order Paper can be ruled out of order under the same ruling.
Dr. FitzGerald: : To enable the Chair and his advisers to consult further on this fundamental issue to which further thought needs to be given I move that the House be adjourned to enable that to happen. If we allow this to pass, and if these questions are not put, then we have lost our right to ask any questions on any subject prior to an Adjournment Debate, as the Chair has defined the matter.
An Ceann Comhairle: : That is not correct, Deputy. The same statements that are being made here now could be made in relation to every question that has ever been ruled out. The House is being grossly disorderly in raising this matter here. There is no need to adjourn the House if the House will be orderly. I will have ample opportunity to convey to Deputies the reason given for ruling out the number of questions referred to.
Mr. Cluskey: : In order to avoid any further heat being generated the suggestion has been made that the Chair would adjourn the House, consider the matter and then reassemble to give an explanation and justification for his ruling.
Mr. Mitchell: : On a point of order, might I point out why the House ought to be adjourned. There are eight questions down to the Minister for Economic Planning and Development. If those questions had been answered today, which they would have been by now had there been an orderly House, there would be no further opposition——
Professor O'Donoghue: : Now we know what it is all about; they want to keep me going until 3.30. Deputies know that Deputy Keating's questions would not come up until tomorrow anyway, so he still would not get them answered before the summer recess. We see now what it is all about.
Mr. Keating: : On a point of order may I ask if it is not the case that the Minister may not answer any one of these questions on the Adjournment Debate and therefore the whole purpose of this is defeated.
An Ceann Comhairle: : There is no point in three Deputies standing up simultaneously. It looks to me like a deliberate attempt to create a disorderly scene. I am not having it. The Chair will not submit; the dignity and decorum of this House are at stake.
An Ceann Comhairle: : Order, please. When the Chair is speaking will Deputies at least resume their seats? There are means of dealing with matters on which the House feels that the Chair is not behaving properly. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges can meet any time. That is where it is proper that this matter be dealt with.
Mr. Cluskey: : The Chair has asked me a question. The reason that the Chair gave for ruling out the questions was that it was anticipating a debate. It is clearly established; there are long precedents——
Mr. Cluskey: : ——for Deputies to avail of Question Time to elicit information in anticipation of a debate. In order not to have any disorder in the House the Chair has been requested to adjourn the House so that he may reconsider the matter, come back, and if he still wants to persist in that ruling, to justify it either under Standing Orders——
Professor O'Donoghue: : May I be permitted to have a word in this hullabaloo? If the concern was that the Deputy's questions will not be answered may I offer to assure the Deputy that I will answer all of his questions in the course——
An Ceann Comhairle: : Order, please. I am not accepting that the House should be adjourned for a matter that is without precedent. Whenever a question is ruled out there is no question of the House being adjourned in order to explain the method that has been used in the past, has been used by all of my predecessors, and the exact same reason for ruling out questions has been used several times in the past.
Dr. FitzGerald: : A Cheann Comhairle, on a matter of public importance, I move that Standing Orders be suspended and the House adjourned. I am entitled to do that and I can take that motion and have a vote on it.
Mr. B. Desmond: : I wish to second that motion. I ask for a statement to the House, on the precedent which none of us has seen probably for the past eight years—I have never seen it as long as I have been here. I would like to see the book which is supposed to be two inches thick produced and we will accept his ruling.
An Ceann Comhairle: : The Chair has no right to take a motion of that  kind from private Members. Deputies know that there is no precedent whatever for it and it is grossly disorderly to suggest there is.
Professor O'Donoghue: : Most of the comments have been on the other side of the House and is it that the Government side is not to be heard? My understanding is, if I may make the point, that Deputy Keating's questions would not have been on the Order Paper until tomorrow. Had I answered my 12 questions in the normal way, as the Deputy himself pointed out, his questions would not have been reached. I have already said that if the House debates the Green Paper, or if that can be introduced into the Adjournment Debate, whenever that takes place. I will undertake to answer the Deputy's questions.
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