Wednesday, 21 June 1978
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. M. O'Leary: asked the Minister for Economic Planning and Development if any decision has been made on a commencement date for discussions with employers and trade union organisations as envisaged in the Green Paper; and if a decision has been made as to which Minister or Ministers will attend these talks.
Professor O'Donoghue: : I hope that these talks will commence as soon as the relevant interest groups have had an opportunity of studying the Green Paper proposals. In order to meet the time schedule of the White Paper they would need to be concluded by mid-September at the latest. The talks will be held under the aegis of the Minister for Economic Planning and Development and other Ministers may attend depending upon the interest group involved and the topic under discussion.
Professor O'Donoghue: : I have properly been called on at least half a dozen occasions since 2.30 p.m. and on every occasion I have been interrupted by Deputies from the other side of the House. Have the Government side no right to be heard?
Dr. FitzGerald: : His being here is irrelevant if his questions have been passed. We will be dealing with questions to other Ministers and Deputy Keating's questions will not be reached. I want to know if it is proposed that we take his questions out of order tomorrow, if you rule in favour of their being taken?
An Ceann Comhairle: : I will look at the questions and inform the Deputy why I ruled them out of order. I will do that when Question Time is  over and if the Deputy is not satisfied he may put down a motion and seek to raise it with the Committee on Procedures and Privileges. Please do not interrupt Question Time.
Professor O'Donoghue: : I would ask the Chair to hear this side of the House. I can only repeat what I said earlier. I am not even familiar with the details of these questions put down by Deputy Keating——
Professor O'Donoghue: : I did not know if they were going to be admitted. As I understand the position, had they been on the Order Paper in the normal way they were not due for reply until tomorrow. I would have answered my dozen or so questions today——
Dr. FitzGerald: : Is the Chair saying that the Minister will be here tomorrow  to answer these questions. If we have reached the questions put down to another Minister will Deputy Keating's questions be taken out of order?
Mr. Cluskey: : Deputy FitzGerald would appear to be satisfied if these questions were to appear on tomorrow's Order Paper. That would not satisfy this party. We are more concerned with the basic fundamental rights of Deputies to submit legitimate questions and for them not to be ruled out of order against all established precedent and against any ruling in Standing Order. Unless that issue is cleared up I hope the Chair realises that he is doing very serious damage to democracy itself and to the whole  process of the democratic procedure. By your ruling you are undermining the whole democratic process. As you are undermining the whole democratic process, I suggest respectfully that you review your decision and make known the outcome not to any one Deputy but to the House.
An Ceann Comhairle: : Frequently questions are ruled out. In the past I had rows on several occasions in that regard but I was never permitted to refer in the House to the questions concerned. There was always ample time in other circumstances to discuss the matters involved.
Mr. Cluskey: : It is not a question of ruling out questions. The whole point is that you have ruled out questions on the basis that they are to be the subject of a debate which may or may not take place. You have ruled out those questions on the basis that we are not entitled to elicit legitimate factual information in order to prepare ourselves to participate actively and intelligently in the anticipated debate. There is no precedent for the Chair's action.
Dr. Browne: : I have not heard the answers to my questions. However, as one who has been here for a long time, it has been my practice always to put down questions in anticipation of a debate in order to elicit factual information to use in the debate; but if it is your ruling that the questions tabled by Deputy Keating are out of order on the basis that the information sought would be given in a subsequent debate, this is the first time I have known of such a line being taken.
Mr. Cluskey: : Is the Chair prepared to answer the question I put, that is, will he make a statement to the House regarding his reason for disallowing the questions and, if so, at what time may we expect the statement to be made?
Mr. B. Desmond: : ——but, as the Deputy concerned, can you assure me that before the House adjourns you will indicate the precedents you used for ruling the questions out of order? If you are not prepared to give such an undertaking I do not see any point in our staying here either.
Professor O'Donoghue: : The Deputies are merely repeating points they have made many times, but I am glad that one Deputy on the other side is aware of the awful example being given today to future voters and citizens.
Professor O'Donoghue: : Since the question of the rights of Deputies has been raised, I might point out that, although I answered Deputy Browne's questions as they were called, he hardly had an opportunity of hearing the replies. I am not sure of the procedure involved in such circumstances.
Mr. Cluskey: : You have said that the statement will be made before the adjournment but we have had no indication from the Government as to the date of the adjournment. Surely this matter is of such importance, not only to the Deputies concerned but to the country as a whole, that you should condescend to make a statement before 8.30 this evening.
An Ceann Comhairle: : Yes. The Chair has advisers and is acting strictly on precedent in relation to the  questions. I assure the House that I do not take a personal decision on these matters. My decisions are made in full consultation with my advisers. In this case the decision was unanimous on the part of those who always advise the Chair. I want to put that on record.
An Ceann Comhairle: : I am accepting the responsibility and I undertake to make a statement regarding the precedents for my decision, but there is no precedent for the way in which the matter is being dealt with by Deputies. However, I undertake exceptionally to make a statement later this evening on the matter, but I should hope that what has happened here today will not be established as a precedent for anybody who might wish to act in the same way again and to raise at Question Time matters that could be raised more relevantly on other occasions.
An Ceann Comhairle: : Deputy Cluskey has contributed his share to what has occurred. Last evening Deputy Keating notified me that, although the matter was being ruled out of order, he would be raising it in the House.
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