Thursday, 24 April 1986
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Haughey: With reference to the legislation which has been circulated to us in the form of a Bill to amend the Constitution, may I ask the Taoiseach if he would explain to the House how, yesterday morning at this time, he could tell me that he would be coming to the Government to present conclusions and that the Government had not reached any decision on the matter? Is he seriously suggesting, as a matter of credibility to this House, that for the first time yesterday morning the Government approached this important issue, discussed it and decided it all at one morning's meeting of the Cabinet? Is that the Taoiseach's position on this matter?
An Ceann Comhairle: I was going to say, Taoiseach, that the Bill is now on the Order Paper and presumably will be coming before the House. That will afford an opportunity for raising the point which Deputy Haughey now wishes to raise, or any other point which is in order.
Mr. Haughey: Yesterday morning I sought to ask the Taoiseach about this  matter as impending legislation. You sought to prevent my raising it. Probably to your surprise and to mine a Bill was circulated yesterday. I want to ask the Taoiseach about a matter of some significance, as this is a major change. He gave me and the House to believe yesterday morning that the matter had not come before the Government, that he had not put the proposal before the Government and that the Government had not taken any decision. I want to suggest to you, a Cheann Comhairle, that it strains the credulity of this House to suggest that a major change of this kind, an amendment to the Constitution was, in fact, decided by the Government ab initio at one morning's Cabinet meeting.
The Taoiseach: What I said yesterday was that the position was that I had stated publicly that following consultation with the Churches I would be coming to the Government to present the conclusions that I had reached. Secondly, I said that the Government had not taken any decision on the matter in question. The matter had been before the Government for consideration. It was brought again to the Government for consideration yesterday and final conclusions were reached after lunchtime yesterday. I informed the Deputy within the hour, certainly within a short space of time and as soon as I could, that we had reached those conclusions and indicated to him, as a matter of courtesy, the time at which legislation would be likely to be circulated. I think that I have carried out my  functions fully and honourably in the matter.
Mr. Haughey: I wish to acknowledge the Taoiseach's courtesy yesterday, after the Government decision had been taken, in letting me have the appropriate documentation as quickly as possible. However, I suggest that there is only one possible interpretation of the word used by the Taoiseach yesterday morning to this House about this important matter and that was that he had not as of yesterday morning put proposals to the Government.
Mr. Haughey: What the Taoiseach said yesterday morning was, and I quote, “I have stated publicly that following consultations with the Churches I will be coming to the Government to present the conclusions I have reached.”
An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair would like order, please. I will allow Deputy Haughey to ask one further short question, but if this were to develop into a debate the wisdom of the Chair when he ruled that the matter could not be raised at all would become very apparent. We must proceed with the business of the House.
Mr. Haughey: I accept your ruling and I propose to leave the matter at that except to suggest that the Taoiseach was not fair to the House and was not honest with the House yesterday morning when he conveyed to us the impression that at that point he had not put proposals to the Government and that the whole matter apparently was decided by the Government at one morning Cabinet meeting.
The Taoiseach: I wish to repudiate that in the strongest terms possible. I made the matter clear. I told the House what I had told the Churches, that was, that I would be bringing the matter before the Government and I told the House that the Government had not at that point taken a decision. As soon as a decision was taken I informed Deputy Haughey accordingly. I am not prepared to accept any imputation of dishonesty or of misleading the House.
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