Wednesday, 13 October 1993
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Nos. 6 and 7. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Private Members' Business shall be No. 13 and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight.
Mr. J. Bruton: I welcome the Government's initiative in seeking a meeting with Mr. Jim Molyneaux, Leader of the Official Unionist Party and the fact that the Government is taking action in this area. Arising from questions last week on this matter, when does the Taoiseach consider it will be possible to have a debate in the House on Northern Ireland issues?
Mr. J. Bruton: I realise that but I am sure the Taoiseach would like to be forthcoming. We have had several requests for debates which have been admitted. There is no subject more important in terms of lives than that of Northern  Ireland. The House should debate the issue and I am sure the Government would wish it to be debated.
Proinsias De Rossa: At Question Time we also sought this information and the Taoiseach refused to give it. It would be appropriate at this stage if the Taoiseach would indicate when he intends to have a debate on Northern Ireland. It is time the Government clarified what the policy is.
Mr. J. Bruton: I do not wish to be unduly persistent but it is important that some procedure should exist and perhaps the Government would consider amending Standing Orders to allow us request a debate on a subject of this importance, such as Northern Ireland. Would the Taoiseach consider that?
The Taoiseach: I appreciate the approach Opposition parties are taking to this delicate process in which we are engaged, but I do not regard it as appropriate to have a discussion now on this subject. I do not believe it would be helpful at this time to have a debate on Northern Ireland as the process in which we are engaged is delicate. It is a difficult time and I hope the House will bear with us in our strategy.
Miss Harney: I do not necessarily disagree with the Taoiseach but he is asking too much if he will not brief Opposition Leaders privately on developments on Northern Ireland. This is my first request to him in this position.
Mr. Dukes: The Taoiseach and members of the Government should stop fooling themselves. The Seanad is debating the Opsahl Commission report, which was compiled by a group of people with  no axe to grind who went around the country and Northern Ireland and spoke to a wide variety of people about this issue. Many people talked to them in public.
Mr. Rabbitte: Having regard to the published schedule of legislation, has the Taoiseach made any provision for the bringing forward of legislative proposals to give effect to the likely findings of the tribunal of inquiry into the beef industry? Has he had discussions with the Tánaiste about a joint Government response to this major event and is any preparation being made by the Government to deal with the matter legislatively?
Mr. Gilmore: Will the Taoiseach or the Minister for the Environment indicate when local government legislation on the establishment of the three new county councils in Dublin, which is due to take effect from 1 January, will be taken in the House?
Mr. R. Bruton: When will the Bill be introduced to give privilege to witnesses appearing before Oireachtas committees? In the interim will the Taoiseach consider giving committees, such as the Enterprise and Employment Committee which is now examining the Glackin report, at least the authority to call witnesses, pending the final tidying up of the status of witnesses?
Mr. R. Bruton: I asked for an indication of time. This is of the essence since this report has been the subject of three meetings of that committee and the committee is effectively blocked from making further progress.
Mr. J. Bruton: On 11 March the Government promised legislation to give a statutory basis to the rights of mentally handicapped people not to be the victims of discrimination as provided in its Programme for Government. Why has the Minister for Equality and Law Reform omitted this legislation from his priority items for this session?
The Taoiseach: Work has commenced on the preparation of this Bill. Because it is not absolutely certain when it will be published, it was not on the list. If it is ready it will be added to the list and the fact that it is not already there does not preclude it from being published this session.
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