Wednesday, 10 May 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take Nos. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 1. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) Nos. 4, 5 and 6 shall be moved together and decided without debate by one question which shall be put from the Chair; and (2) Private Members' Business shall be No. 24 and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is it satisfactory and agreed that Nos. 4, 5 and 6 shall be taken together and decided without debate? Agreed. Is it satisfactory and agreed that Private Members'  Business shall be No. 24 and the proceedings thereon should be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. this evening? Agreed.
Mr. B. Ahern: I apologise for the absence of Deputy Michael Ahern. He is attending the debate on the Finance Bill and is one of our few efficient chartered accountants who we need to attend it. We should not let this day pass without acknowledging the significance of the talks that will commence today between Sinn Féin and British Government Ministers after 23 years. They are the culmination of what we achieved last August, about which the Tánaiste and the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, can feel satisfied. I hope the talks will go from strength to strength and I wish the process well. Will the Tánaiste give the House some information on what progress has been made during the past two weeks since the Taoiseach told us that under strand II he would make direct contact and issue invitations to the parties in the North? Has that happened and what are the Tanaiste's views on that?
An Ceann Comhairle: I hesitate to interrupt the leader of the main Opposition party in this House, but there are certain matters of importance one hesitates to rule upon. The Chair has an obligation to see to it that matters referred to at this time are in strict accord with the Order of Business. Despite my best endeavour I cannot relate the matters referred to by Deputy Ahern to the formal Order of Business in this House.
An Ceann Comhairle: It may well be, but there are many ways of raising matters in this House and I would much prefer if they were raised in a more formal manner than by what seems to me to be an abuse of the Order of Business.
Mr. B. Ahern: If we are to follow the formal path on this issue — it may be four weeks before questions to the Minister for Foreign Affairs will next be taken during Question Time — we will be continually out of date regarding information.
The Irish School of Ecumenics is also involved in the peace process. Will the Tánaiste pay particular attention to the difficulties in this regard? The whole idea is to deal with peace and the role of a third level institution in dealing with peace matters. If the Tánaiste cannot answer that question, perhaps he would pay attention to those difficulties.
The Tánaiste: Regarding the meeting taking place today in Belfast, it is an important day and we on the Government side as, I am sure, all Deputies in the House wish the Sinn Féin representatives and the British Government well in the discussions. We have all been waiting for them to take place. They are of great importance to the peace process and we want to move on from there. In Government we also want to move on to inclusive negotiations and discussions between all parties and we will do everything we can to assist that.
Miss Harney: I too wish the participants in today's talks well. They are of historic and symbolic importance but no more than that. The real talks that will sort out the political difficulties in Northern Ireland will be between mainstream Unionists and Nationalists and I hope that we can move on to those talks as quickly as possible.
In relation to the third banking force, as the Minister for Enterprise and Employment has invited tenders, among others, from the private sector banks, for the new loans subsidy scheme for small business, will the Tánaiste say whether the Government will go ahead with its proposals for a third banking sector?
Mr. Sargent: I am surprised that, as yet, there has been no announcement of the Waste Bill bearing in mind press reports to the effect that this would be the week in which something substantial might be announced. Is that the case?
Mr. S. Brennan: Will the Tánaiste say when the Telecom Éireann regulator Bill be introduced? Furthermore, will he reverse the Government decision to suppress a report dealing with the possible sale of 40 per cent of Telecom Éireann? Will he bring that report to the attention of Democratic Left who I believe will find it most interesting if they have not already seen it?
Mr. D. Ahern: In regard to A Government of Renewal, in view of newspaper reports of yesterday's Cabinet discussions on possible action with regard to Sellafield, will the Tánaiste say whether the Government has yet taken a decision in that regard?
Mr. Davern: Will the Tánaiste state the position in regard to the proposed legislation on divorce? Is he in a position to contradict comments made on “Morning Ireland” and in today's newspapers, or does he agree with the description of “revolting Fine Gael TDs”?
The Tánaiste: I do not find any of my colleagues in this House revolting. The Government intends to hold a referendum next autumn. The relevant proposals will be introduced in this House in due course.
Ms O'Donnell: I appear to be unfortunate in that each time I attempt to rise there is a row. In regard to legislation promised recently by the Taoiseach to amend the law on insanity and criminal responsibility — on foot of the controversy about the Gallagher case — will the Tánaiste inform the House of the present stage of that legislation and when we may expect to have it introduced?
Mr. O'Dea: In view of the fact that the Supreme Court will take a decision on Friday next on the constitutionality of the abortion information Bill, will the Tánaiste say whether the Government has any contingency plans in the event of that Bill being struck down, or will we be back to square one?
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: In regard to promised legislation on a third banking force, may I ask the Tánaiste whether the Trustee Savings Bank will be included and, if so, what guarantees will be given to its employees? Is he aware that its employees are totally opposed to becoming involved in any third banking force — theirs being a niche bank — the maintenance of which is very important to our economy overall?
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