Thursday, 9 February 1984
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Haughey: Would the Taoiseach care to comment on the announcement which the Chair has just made to the House about the rejection of the Electoral Bill by the Supreme Court, or when can we expect some announcement by the Government to the House? I know that, in accordance with the best tradition of the Government, everything must be announced to the newspapers first, but, perhaps, at some stage we might get some official information from the Government about the position.
The Taoiseach: The position is that I mentioned to the Leader of the Opposition in advance that it was our intention, should the decision of the Supreme Court prove negative, to indicate immediately  the intention to bring in a Bill for a referendum to enable the Dáil to extend citizenship should it decide to so so and to the extent that it would wish to do so. I felt such an announcement should be made immediately to eliminate any doubts there might be and to avoid a period of uncertainity. I regret if the Opposition are unhappy that the announcement was not made here. I can see the point made by the Deputy and had he suggested that to me at the time, I would have taken it into consideration. We thought it was wiser to say immediately what was being done in order to avoid unnecessary speculation about it. As the whole question is one which parties on both sides of the House have been committed to in their discussions with the British Government, and in the discussion in the House, I felt that the matter was non-controversial to deal with in that way.
Mr. Haughey: I should like to draw the Taoiseach's attention to the fact that there are a number of different aspects to this matter. First of all, of course, there is the case of British citizens resident here and then there is the question of residents or nationals of other EEC countries, other than British, resident here. There is a related question of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and the fact that Irish citizens in Northern Ireland are debarred from voting in certain elections in Northern Ireland. In view of the fairly complex aspects of the matter, and in particular in view of the question of reciprocity where member states of the European Community are concerned in regard to the extension of voting rights, will the Taoiseach not consider that it would be appropriate for him, or for the appropriate member of the Government, to make a fairly comprehensive statement to the Dáil about the matter? If we are to have a referendum we would like to consider the matter in all its aspects before rushing into it to see exactly what we should be seeking to achieve in the referendum. The Taoiseach should consider my suggestion that at an appropriate stage very soon, either by way of a statement from the Government or  debate in the House, all the different aspects should be considered by the House.
The Taoiseach: I would not disagree with that at all. The original commitment in relation to this to the British Government was entered into by the Deputy opposite on behalf of his Government and we felt ourselves bound by that and acted accordingly in introducing the Bill which had the support of the House. We were all aware that there was a possibility of it being unconstitutional although both Governments had advice the weight of which was that it probably would be held to be constitutional. The immediate issue that arose, and arose as a result of the Deputy's discussions with the British Prime Minister in 1980, was an extension of the vote to British citizens here as an act of reciprocity given the voting rights Irish citizens enjoy in Britain and the threat that has occurred from time to time that that might in some way be adversely affected or withdrawn. That is the issue that came before the House and it was on that basis that the Bill was debated. I would be quite happy in the first instance to consult with the Opposition further about the matter before proceeding. Of course, there will be a debate in the House on the referendum legislation when it is introduced. If it is felt that there is a need to have a debate in advance of that we will consider it but it seems more logical to proceed by way of informal consultation followed by a debate on the legislation in the House. Unless the Opposition feel there is a need for a prior debate I would propose to proceed in that way, but I would be very happy to consult with the Leader of the Opposition on the subject.
Mr. Haughey: I am certainly not looking for a debate in advance of the referendum legislation but, perhaps, a White Paper or a document of some sort can be prepared by the Government for the information of all Members because it is a complex matter at this stage. I do not think it is just one single issue. There are other things that will have to be taken  into consideration if we are going to go through the whole process of a referendum.
Mr. Reynolds: I should like to ask the Taoiseach if he is aware of the shocking announcement this morning in relation to the large scale redundancies in the ESB and if he will tell the House his position in regard to them.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am not. I simply say it is not a matter that can be raised on the Order of Business. If the Deputy wishes to ask for it on the Adjournment I will be only too happy to meet him.
Mr. G. Brady: I tried to have a Private Notice Question last week in connection with the Dublin Gas Company employing 70 fitters from abroad while local qualified workers were available here. That question was not allowed. I want your  guidance as to what steps I can take at this stage.
Mr. Flynn: Is the Taoiseach aware of the continuing failure of Irish investment companies, and would the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism take the measures that are available to him——
The Taoiseach: Speaking from recollection, I think it will be in the near future. I have not got a note of the date in front of me. On points of this kind, I like to give the House precise information. I could do that if Deputies would indicate in advance the information they want. It is difficult to recollect which Bill is due on which date.
Mr. G. Mitchell: I thought I would get better attention if I stayed up here. I should like to raise on the Adjournment the question of the Department of the Environment denying house subsidy grants to citizens who apply for them. The refusals are based on information which is erroneously recorded by local authorities in regard to applicants' position on housing lists. Specifically, I refer to Question No. 297 in my name to the Minister for the Environment.
Mr. Flynn: A former Minister for Industry, Commerce, Trade and Tourism, Deputy Cluskey, promised the Dáil that he would be bringing forward legislation in regard to limited liability. It was confirmed by the Taoiseach before the Christmas recess. He indicated we would have it reasonably soon in this session. With the change of the holder of that  office, would it be possible to proceed with this legislation?
Mr. Flynn: I sought to raise on the Adjournment yesterday the virtual collapse of the emergency ambulance service in the west. You ruled it out of order, saying it was a matter for the Western Health Board. If, because of the refusal of the Government and the Minister for Health to make necessary funds available to the Western Health Board, is it not the Minister for Health who is responsible?
Mr. Flynn: I seek your assistance to challenge your ruling in that matter. It was not a question — it was a matter of being allowed to raise it on the Adjournment. The Minister for Health is denying the people of the west the right to an emergency ambulance service.
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