Wednesday, 22 June 1988
Dáil Eireann Debate
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy McCoy moved yesterday that leave be given to introduce this Bill and the motion was opposed. In accordance with Standing Order 92 (4) the debate was adjourned until now in Private Members' Time. I will permit an explanatory statement from Deputy McCoy and from other Opposition spokespersons. No Deputy may speak for more than five minutes.
Mr. McDowell: I appreciate that you are proposing to do as you stated, but I am suggesting to you that the clear and obvious rule of the House is that there is one speech for and one against and that has always been the case.
Mr. McDowell: I merely want to say a few words to you, not in the spirit of challenging your ruling. The words of the Standing Order are that if a motion be opposed the Ceann Comhairle shall permit an explanatory statement not exceeding five minutes in length from the Member who moves and from a Member who opposes the motion before he poses the question.
Mr. D. O'Malley: The Standing Order could not be clearer. It refers to a statement in the singular by a Member in the singular. It is now proposed to cast aside that ruling. What is the point of having Standing Orders when you are interpreting them like this?
Mr. Molloy: On a point of information, may I inquire why this ruling was not conveyed to the other parties who can only rely on Standing Orders for procedure in this House? Why was this ruling  made? Obviously, the intention was conveyed to Fine Gael. It was not conveyed to this party.
Last December, this House passed the Fisheries (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill of 1987, even though, on Committee Stage, discussions had reached only section 4. The remaining sections and Stages were all passed without debate. In the Minister's introductory speech on Second Stage, he stated that the Bill had the support of the Trout Anglers' Federation of Ireland, Official Report, volume 376, column 2594, and Opposition parties accepted the Minister's assurance on this matter. It has, of course, since transpired that the Minister gave the Dáil incorrect information on that occasion. It is now clear that little or no consultation took place with the angling clubs involved. Their disagreement with the licensing system has caused major disruption in angling affairs, with extremely serious consequences for the angling tourist industry.
To date, the losses in tourism angling alone stand at over £6 million according to Bord Fáilte, which is exactly 15 times the maximum revenue that the Government have targeted from their rod licensing system. In addition, there has been the very damaging implication for the future of angling tourism arising from the extensive media coverage that the present dispute has received in the foreign media, including consumer and tourism media in Britain and on the Continent. Even The New York Times has carried a report on the controversy. I want to sound this warning. Unless this dispute is settled by this September, further irreparable damage will be done. That is the effective deadline for tour operators in Britain and on the Continent to put their tourism packages for the 1989 tourist season together. Many of these  people have been messed around with their Irish tours this year and if the present dispute is not resolved many of these will simply scrub Ireland from their list of holiday destinations for next year.
When he first brought our Bill forward in May and continuously ever since, we have made clear that our primary concern in the present controversy is the innocent hostages in the tourist sector, the hoteliers, the guesthouse owners, the restaurateurs and others who are the real victims of the affair.
Mr. McCoy: We are anxious to see the fullest consultation with all the relevant interests to reach agreement on a mutually satisfactory system of funding for the development of inland fisheries. The common sense solution to the present dispute is to suspend legislation until next March to allow such discussions to proceed in a climate of goodwill and to enable a lasting solution to emerge as quickly as possible. We condemn any intimidation of anglers complying with the law of the land as it now stands and anybody who acts outside the law does serious harm to the cause of all those opposing rod licensing. Our Bill is the correct way to go about resolving the present dispute, bringing the issue before Dáil Éireann. This is not a nods and winks solution or one being attempted behind closed doors. We are not seeking the total repeal of the legislation but rather its suspension for a cooling off period, when a lasting solution can be worked out.
We see our Bill as the only practical solution to the present difficulty. We are aware of the several attempts made by the Taoiseach, Ministers, Ministers of State and civil servants to find some other way around the impasse. Indeed, some guarantees are alleged to have been given which would have been highly improper. We are also aware of the expressed intention of Fine Gael to move an amending Bill to put in place alternative structures which clearly will not work. It would  serve little purpose to replace this bad piece of legislation with another piece of inoperable legislation. I appeal to Fine Gael and all parties to support our Bill as the only practical course of action at present.
Mr. D. O'Malley: With respect, Standing Order 92 (2) makes it absolutely clear that your proposal to call more than one speaker in opposition to this Bill is entirely outside the Standing Order. It is against it and I am not aware of any precedent——
Mr. D. O'Malley: It is wrong that the Chair should do this when the Standing Order could not be clearer. It makes all the Standing Orders and the procedures of this House meaningless if the rules can be changed to suit political predicaments.
Mr. McDowell: I am entitled to ask the Chair whether this arrangement was agreed on an application to the Chair by the Whips of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael or whether it was done through ordinary — and more customary — channels in an attempt to secure all-party agreement in the House. It is wrong that an informal, behind-the-scenes whisper could give rise to tearing up the rule book of this House and I object to it.
Mrs. Doyle: I approached the Ceann Comhairle's office this morning to know  if it would be in order for me to have five minutes also. Some hours later, the Ceann Comhairle's office communicated with me and said that it would be all right. I made the initial approach in relation to Fine Gael; I did not consider other Opposition parties. The purpose of this brief debate is to decide whether the Bill in the name of Deputy McCoy should proceed to First Stage and then be published and circulated. Let us stick to what we should be talking about tonight.
The Bill in my name on the Order Paper represents clearly and unequivocally, the Fine Gael position on the resolution of the destructive rod angling dispute that has continued now for six months. I fully appreciate the concerns of anglers who distrust the licensing system and the potential legal controls inherent in it. I accept in good faith that the anglers have — and will continue — to contribute to the development of our inland fisheries service, inadequate though that may be, given the enormous potential of this industry if properly developed.
We need structures and realistic investment, proper pollution and poaching control to arrest the serious decline in angling. It is towards this end that our time and energies should more properly be directed. If we, the democratically elected Members of the House, have the will to deliver I know the anglers will keep their part of the bargain with reasonable contributions towards that service.
Even if the Progressive Democrats win the vote tonight, their Bill cannot be taken this session as they have no Private Members' Time left. They have known this for weeks but continued to raise expectations, mainly through the misleading histrionics of Deputy Molloy, who appears to be quite out of step with the views of Deputy O'Malley and his own marine spokesman, Deputy McCoy.
Mrs. Doyle: It is very hard to know who the main spokesperson is in the Progressive Democrats. His opportunism is for the benefit of his own constituency  and must be seen by all, including the beleaguered tourism interests in the west, for what it is.
Mrs. Doyle: I have had dialogue with Deputy McCoy in relation to this matter and indeed the Fine Gael leader, Deputy Dukes, has spoken to Deputy O'Malley about it. We were endeavouring to find a common approach to resolve the issue. It appears that the Progressive Democrats are more interested in cynical exploitation of those whose livelihoods are now seriously affected by this appalling dispute than in being part of a resolution of the problem, particularly if the solution is proposed by Fine Gael.
Mrs. Doyle: I will continue to do all I can to get agreement on the solution and, notwithstanding the charade now before the House, I will be delighted to continue dialogue with the Progressive Democrats main spokesman, Deputy McCoy, and all who are interested in a constructive, responsible outcome that will not threaten democratic procedures which I hope we all value.
Mr. M. Higgins: On 16 December 1987, the Labour Party's attitude to the legislation was clearly indicated by our spokesperson for the Marine, Deputy Pattison, and myself. On that occasion, we voted against the Second Stage of the Fisheries Bill, 1987, because there were a number of serious flaws in it. There were three reasons for voting against it.  We had decided in our attitude towards the Bill that the principle of interfering with free fishing was a very important one. My speech in the Dáil — and that of Deputy Pattison — drew attention to the administrative difficulties in implementing legislation of this kind. The third reason was that the proposed yield from the licence — £550,000 — had to be set in the context of a 13 per cent reduction in the Department of the Marine and the loss of over £1 million. At that stage we pointed out that even within the 13 per cent reduction in the Department of Fisheries Estimate, the amount spent on conservation had been further reduced.
The attitude of the Labour Party has been consistent in this regard. We have continued to show to the public the principles underlying our opposition last December. Since then, unfortunately, communities have become divided, relationships between anglers and fishery boards have been very badly damaged and great havoc has been wreaked in the tourist economy, particularly in some fragile rural communities such as Oughterard and elsewhere. Our attitude to the present legislation, therefore, can be simply put. We continue to oppose the principle involved in bringing in a rod licence. We continue in our suggestion that it is administratively impossible to achieve. We also point to the fact that, in terms of finance, it was replacement money, particularly in relation to conservation, for money that should have been provided from proper and adequate finances.
Our attitude towards the tourists dealing with the present impasse is to participate responsibly and with some consistency when public meetings have been called on this issue. Our party, Deputy Kemmy and others voted against this legislation in December. We will be preparing our own legislative resolution of these difficulties in the autumn. However, in the interim, we must regard the Bill before us as offering the prospect of consultation and a period of time in which we might make some progress.  For that reason, we will support the Bill proposed by Deputy McCoy.
In relation to the homilies on cynicism to which attention has been drawn, the justification of those who did not vote against the legislation in December was that they had been misled about consultation. If that is the case, they should not be misled this evening. For example, what has been proposed by Deputy Doyle has been rejected by the angling clubs——
Mr. M. O'Higgins: A simple consultation process in any part of the country could have confirmed that for her. Therefore, it cannot be said that anyone was misled in regard to consultation in December 1987 and closed their ears to consultation in June 1988. We are opposed to the principle of the legislation but we will support the legislation proposed here because it offers us some breathing space and time for a resolution of a damaging and unnecessary conflict.
Mr. Sherlock: On behalf of The Workers' Party I propose that the Dáil suspend the rod licence law. There is unprecedented opposition among anglers to the licence fee which is seen simply as an attempt to raise additional revenue for central Government. There have already been a number of incidents on rivers and lakes involving anglers and fishery officers. Unless action is taken to defuse the situation there is likely to be further trouble with the prospect of anglers having to face fines and even imprisonment. There is also evidence that it is doing considerable damage to tourism. Tourists who were told there was free angling here now arrive and find that they have to pay for the pleasure of fishing our rivers and lakes.
Given the manner in which this legislation was rushed through the Dáil in just two days before the Christmas recess, without adequate consideration and without consultation with either the angling interests or Bord Fáilte, it should be withdrawn. Having debated this matter with  the very staunch members and officers of Fianna Fáil in the Blackwater valley area, that is the Mitchelstown/ Mallow/Fermoy district, and also with Fine Gael members——
Mr. Sherlock: Wait until Deputies hear this. It is amazing there is no democracy in either of the parties, in so far as not one single member in that constituency was aware of that legislation being introduced. For that reason——
Mr. Sherlock: ——this should now be scrapped and an opportunity given for further consultation. It should be scrapped because of the damage it is doing and the anger which it has caused among respectable anglers who have in the past out of their own pockets funded the restocking of rivers and have had to contend until now with intolerable pollution.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: ——allows the occupant of the Chair discretion to extend the debate to parties, which discretion the Ceann Comhairle has utilised, but this would not extend to Deputy Donnellan who on his own admission represents himself.
Mr. Donnellan: ——in allowing me to express my opinion for one further minute, because it is only one minute in a long day in the House. I will conclude by saying that the legislation is bad; it should not have been enacted and this House should never have supported it.
Mr. D. O'Malley: On a point of order, I would point out, in the light of what the Chair said, that the Standing Order under which this debate is taking place does not give discretion to the occupant of the  Chair to call parties to speak. The relevant part of the Standing Order allows the Chair only to call one person other than the proposer. It reads:
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: In view of the botheration that has derived from a former holder of the office extending the debate to parties, the Deputy will appreciate I would not want to create a precedent which would allow more disruptions at some future date than has occurred tonight.
Mr. Kemmy: The Clerk of the Dáil approached me last night to ask me if I was voting for the Labour Party. If I had not been here no division would have been called at all because there must be at least ten votes for any division. Therefore, I feel I am entitled to speak.
Mr. Kemmy: I will accept the Chair's ruling, with one further point. The reason I do not speak here as often as I would like is that I am always hedged in with all sorts of qualifications. But other people  speak here for hours without making any sense whatsoever. That is true, and some of you people have a lot to answer for in that regard, but I will bow to your ruling.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy O'Malley will realise that the Minister is now utilising the five minutes provided to him under Standing Orders and I ask Deputy O'Malley not to interrupt the Minister during his five minutes.
Minister for the Marine (Mr. Daly): I have been subjected to more misrepresentation and misinformation on this issue then any other Member of the House. The reason I oppose this Bill is that on 16 December, when this legislation was brought before the House, there was scarcely any of the interest we see this evening from either Fine Gael or the Progressive Democrats. The people who are very vocal about this issue, and who have been vocal about this issue, were not in attendance in the House on that occasion.
Mr. Daly: Deputy Molloy, who has shown a very deep interest in this issue, was not present in the House and did not avail of the opportunity to make a contribution on 16 December. Strange as it may seem, even though this legislation has been criticised on many grounds by Opposition spokespersons, on the occasion when there was an opportunity to amend the legislation and to table an amendment, they did not either bother to do that or to contribute. I want to single out in particular the Progressive Democrats, whose spokesperson on Marine affairs was not present on that occasion. Deputy Molloy was not present  on that occasion and indeed the personnel of the Progressive Democrats was so depleted on that occasion that the party leader had to make a contribution on behalf of the Progressive Democrats.
Mr. Cullen: A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, on a point of order, I would ask the Minister to withdraw that remark because he knows full well that I was undergoing an operation in St. Vincents Hospital at the time and, indeed, I received greetings from his own Department. I resent that he has to bring that element into this debate. If that is the only argument this Government have it is a poor look out for the future of this country.
Mr. Daly: When the legislation was before the House no effort was made and no amendment was moved by the Progressive Democrats on that occasion. If they felt that the legislation could have been improved upon, it was their duty and obligation at that time to put forward their amendments and be here to support them; but they abstained on that  occasion. I can quote what Deputy O'Malley said in the second sentence of his contribution. He said that: “The principle of licensing is not necessarily a bad or a wrong one ...” That is on the record.
Mr. Daly: I could read more of what he said on that occasion — that not only should rod and coarse fishermen be licensed but that sea anglers should also have licences and indeed that spot fines should be imposed to ensure that they would be more effective in their implementation.
Mr. Daly: The point is that a charge has been made that no consultations were entered into on this issue. For the most of last year I had detailed consultations with the various fisheries boards, with the Central Fisheries Board, with the Coarse Anglers Federation of Ireland and with the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland. We have on record the views of those organisations where they support in principle a licensing arrangement for both trout fishing and coarse fishing, so it is not accurate to say that the federations with responsibility have been opposed to the licensing arrangement in principle. They support the licensing arrangement. They did have some reservations about how the money should be spent. We have written into the legislation very clearly that the licence revenue will be paid in at local level — not into the Exchequer — and used by the local fisheries authorities in the discharge of their responsibilities in the management, protection and development of inland fisheries.
There has been much misrepresentation about the number of people who will be obliged to pay this  licence. We have exempted in the legislation persons up to the age of 18 years and persons over 65 years of age. We have also made provision that the revenue will be spent at local level on the development and preservation of the resource. The question that must be faced up to in a situation where the majority view of the people with responsibility in this area — the fisheries boards, the central fisheries authority and many of the responsible angling bodies in this country — recognise that the financing of the development of inland fisheries is a vital issue that has to be resolved. Where State finances are limited and where our ability to direct more revenue into that area is limited, we have to seek alternative ways of funding the fisheries development programme. We believe that the small amount which would be charged — £10 for a coarse licence, £15 for a trout rod licence and a short term holiday licence for £5 and £10 respectively for trout and coarse fishing — is a modest contribution.
Mr. Daly: In the long term best interest to the development, of this magnificent national resource, which is relatively underdeveloped, the most fundamental issue that faces the development of inland fisheries at present is the question of financing. We have to ask the people involved in it to make a modest contribution to back up the State investment in this area and I believe that the vast majority of genuine anglers are willing to do that. The Dáil divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 70.
Gibbons, Martin Patrick.
Higgins, Michael D.
McCoy, John S.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
Coughlan, Mary T.
de Valera, Síle.
Hilliard, Colm Michael.
Kitt, Michael P.
O'Dea, William Gerard.
Mr. McDowell: I would like some ruling from the Chair as to why Deputy Kemmy, a member of a party which is not a group, was not permitted to speak whereas Deputy Sherlock, although not a member of a group within the meaning of Standing Orders, was allowed to speak? Is there one law for Deputy Kemmy and one law for Deputy Sherlock? Why was Deputy Sherlock allowed to speak while Deputy Kemmy was not allowed to speak?
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