Thursday, 25 April 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Nos. 8 and 9. It is also proposed that the proceedings on the Second Stage of No. 8 shall be brought to a conclusion at 4.45 p.m. today and the Minister for Finance shall be called on not later than 4.15 p.m. to conclude the debate.
Mr. J. Bruton: May I ask the Taoiseach, in respect of the business transacted by the House, if he will arrange for the Minister for Labour to convey in person both to the management of the ESB and to the representatives of the ESB workers now on strike, the united will of the House as expressed here last night? Will the Taoiseach agree that under the Constitution it is the responsibility of the Government elected by the Dáil to convey on the Dáil's behalf that expression of opinion face to face, to those involved so they will realise how serious is the common intent of all of us here in the Dáil that this extremely damaging dispute be brought to an immediate end?
Mr. Spring: I would like to reinforce what has been said, and to request the Minister for Labour to take a personal interest. Over the last number of years the Minister has adopted a high profile, intervening, quite ably, in industrial difficulties. This is probably the biggest challenge to the country, and I urge the Taoiseach to encourage the Minister for Labour to intervene personally. It would appear that with the present deadlock that is absolutely necessary. Certainly the sounds coming out this morning show no progress has been made and I believe it is the duty of the Minister for Labour to personally meet both sides at this stage to try to bring them together.
Tomás Mac Giolla: We do not intend to debate the issue. It is not something we can debate, but I think it is correct that we should all express our disappointment at the lack of progress and recognise the seriousness of the situation. It is evident that the pressures of the strike are affecting the negotiations and for that reason I would like to repeat the request to the unions to suspend the strike action and call off the pickets during the negotiations, without prejudice, if no result comes from the negotiations. I recognise that the Minister for  Labour does not want to intervene until all the procedures have been gone through, but I hope he is taking a minute by minute interest in the proceedings and trying to hurry them along.
The Taoiseach: I respect your ruling, Sir, and I will be very brief by way of reply. First, I would like to recall that this House, speaking on behalf of all the people through their elected representatives here, yesterday evening called on the workers to resume normal working to enable the dispute to be resolved. We are all very conscious of the hardship, loss and inconveniences and, indeed, the danger that prevails right through the country affecting all sections of our people and I think we are all convinced that nothing that is at issue in the strike justifies the enormity of what is happening economically, socially and in a humanitarian way throughout the country. I want to assure the House that the Government are in touch with the situation minute by minute. The Minister for Labour in particular, his staff and people in different agencies are all experienced in this area, and all that experience is being brought to bear on this situation and that will continue to be done. The Government, if necessary, are prepared to consider further measures. The strike has been on for the three days now and I hope that some time during the day the message which has been conveyed to all the parties by this House will finally have effect.
Mr. J. Bruton: In view of what the Taoiseach has just said and this is a personal intervention in this matter which is something new—I agree with everything he said in regard to the responsibility on all concerned, in particular those who have decided to go on strike, to bring that strike to an end. However that agreement in no way mitigates the blame that lies on the Government for their negligence for allowing themselves and the  statutory bodies responsible to them to be caught unawares by this development. However, that is something to be discussed another day and should not in any sense take from the unanimity of this House in calling for a resumption of normal working.
The Taoiseach: I reject any suggestion of negligence on the part of the Government. I deplore that in spite of the co-operative all-party attitude which prevails in this House Deputy Bruton saw fit to make that remark.
Mr. Howlin: On promised legislation, will the Taoiseach indicate when the National Roads Authority Bill will be circulated? This legislation has been promised in three sessions. Will the Taoiseach indicate if there are difficulties in this matter?
Mr. J. Bruton: In view of reports in this morning's papers that the Exchequer is losing approximately £8 million each year because of our failure to introduce legislation to ratify the European Patents Convention, will the Taoiseach indicate when this long promised legislation will be introduced?
Mr. Ferris: When is the Minister for Health likely to bring a proposal before the House, at the request of the Commission, in connection with a decision by the Community Ministers for Health to adopt a plan of action in the framework of 1991-93, the Europe Against AIDS Programme? There is a request from the EC and I wonder when the Minister intends to bring it before the House.
Mr. Harte: On promised legislation, the Minister for the Environment announced last week the provision of £120 million to fill potholes. Will the Taoiseach tell us if we can take this as something we can read in the papers and believe?
Mr. Gilmore: When will the promised Bill on local government be circulated? Will it contain any measures to give effect to the promise made in 1985 by Fianna Fáil to legislate to abolish water charges? Householders would not then be put in jail.
Mr. Rabbitte: Does the Minister for Justice not consider it a disgrace when this city and other urban areas are afflicted by crime that law abiding house-holders are lodged in jail for non-payment of water charges when this Government promised to abolish such charges?
Mr. Rabbitte: This Government promised that they would abolish water charges and campaigned on that basis. The major party in Government made that promise, yet in Cork law-abiding citizens are being put in jail because they observe what this Government promised.
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