Order of Business.

Wednesday, 21 February 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 461 No. 8

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is proposed to take Nos. 1, 13, 9, 14 and 2. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that (1) speeches on No. 9, which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, shall be confined to an opening speech by a Minister or Minister of State, a speech by the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party and a speech in reply by a Minister or Minister of State and (2) Private Members' Business shall be No. 25, motion re cattle and beef industry, and the proceedings thereon should be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There are two matters to put to the House. Are the proposals for dealing with No. 9 satisfactory and agreed?

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  Will only the Minister and Opposition spokespersons be allowed speak on the motion? Will other Members not be allowed speak?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That appears to be the position.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  That is very limited.

[2110]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Are the proposals for dealing with the matter satisfactory? Agreed. Is the proposal that Private Members' Business shall conclude at 8.30 p.m. satisfactory and agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I am sure the Taoiseach would agree that all parties believe there is great merit in John Hume's suggestion to hold a referendum North and South. From reports in today's newspapers the British Prime Minister appears to have a much broader concept of the referendum. Does the Taoiseach agree that such a referendum should not be divisive, but should be capable of being put North and South and centred on peace?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am concerned about the relevancy of the matter now. I would prefer if matters relating to Northern Ireland and the peace process were dealt with in a more structured way.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I am sure the Chair would agree that more than 20 questions on Northern Ireland were taken together yesterday. That is an impossible way to deal with the subject. I would appreciate if the Taoiseach would reply to this one question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  If the Taoiseach wishes, he may intervene.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Members will be aware that when John Hume first put this proposal I and other members of the Government heartily welcomed it because we believe it is constructive. We believe that if all the people on the island voted unambiguously against the use of violence to solve our political problems it would be clear to those who still retain the option of using violence that they are rejected by all others on the island. That would have considerable moral force. Obviously, one must be concerned about the fact that apparently throughout the ceasefire IRA military structures were fully maintained in [2111] operational order. Punishment beatings were undertaken, individuals were targeted and the entire organisation was kept on a military footing. For peace to take hold there must be an internal rethinking and reorientation within the republican movement to recognise that if the strategy is one of peace only it is not necessary to maintain the military option and all those previously involved in military activity must understand and learn what is involved in pursuing the political path.

It is a matter of regret to me that that re-education and rethinking within the republican movement did not take place and was not led by the republican leadership during the ceasefire. They had an obligation to institute not only a ceasefire but also a re-examination of their entire strategy, which I regret did not occur. I hope a referendum along the lines suggested by John Hume, clearly expressing the will of the Irish people, would result not only in a ceasefire but also in what is necessary to ensure that the ceasefire is genuinely permanent and not tactical, that is a complete and radical rethinking by the republican movement of its methods, approach, political priorities and use of its talents.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  If we have a referendum — I could not object to the proposal put forward by John Hume — then it is important to broaden its scope. It is clear there is no support for violence in this jurisdiction and perhaps we could broaden the scope of the referendum to ensure that the ground rules for negotiations are on the basis of consent, which is important. The Taoiseach referred to the peace strategy but it has to be more than a strategy. There has to be a commitment to peace which cannot be used when it suits and abandoned when it does not suit. It should not be mere tactics or strategy, there has to be a clear commitment that peace is the only way forward.

Will the Taoiseach state if the Government intends to hold referenda [2112] this year in relation to votes for emigrants and Cabinet confidentiality and when we will see the necessary legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I agree heartily with the Deputy that peace for a political party is never a tactic, it has to be a principle. There must be a full understanding by all political parties that one cannot don the mantle of peace occasionally and drop it when it suits to do otherwise. Peace and the practice of peace have to be a permanent character of a movement. It is for a movement itself to determine how that can be done and the republican movement must truly understand that pursuing a peace process means abandoning once and for all the option of violence. Violence is not an option which can be retained by a legitimate political party for use whenever times get tough. One is either in the peace process or one is not, there is no halfway house or limbo between peace and war. It is very important that the republican movement, which I have no doubt is now deliberating on this matter, recognises this and knows it is the view of all parties in the House.

The holding of a referendum on Cabinet confidentiality will depend on the completion of the drafting of the relevant legislation on which work is being done, the heads having been settled by the Cabinet. The holding of a referendum on votes for emigrants will I expect be considered by a committee of the House on the basis of a paper prepared by the Government setting out the options and difficulties. I do not expect the Government to be in a position to take the matter further until it has had an opportunity to hear the views of the committee on that paper.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I thank the Taoiseach for his reply and express my hope that any referendum is centred on peace. The building in of Article 10 of the Downing Street Declaration to a referendum would be divisive and open up arguments about having a vote on decommissioning and other issues, [2113] which is not the process envisaged by John Hume.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I must dissuade Members from the notion that they may debate this matter now. I have given some latitude.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  With respect, you gave great latitude to the Taoiseach.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am in charge here, Deputy.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I hope the Deputy is not opposed to what I said.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  It was in the lecture mould.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have repeatedly raised the publication of a White Paper on foreign policy and in his last reply at the end of January the Taoiseach stated he hoped it would be introduced in the next few weeks. Will we see the White Paper before the end of February?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I cannot say if we will see it before the end of February but we will see it in the reasonably near future.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Will we see it?

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  Does the Taoiseach agree that, despite our great desire for peace, it will only be brought about as a result of political movement? Does he attach equal importance to the second part of John Hume's proposal that following a referendum there is an absolute imperative——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy heard my comments on the matter; there can be neither questions nor debate now.

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  On the question of a referendum, I presume we are equally committed to both parts of the proposal——

[2114]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The matter does not arise now.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Members who were present in the House yesterday will recollect I stated that the purpose of the Government is to set a specific date for all party talks, and this was covered very well in the papers today.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Will the Taoiseach ensure that the Minister for Finance meets the CPSU, which represents 10,000 clerical workers, to prevent an escalation of the dispute.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I think there are questions on that subject today.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  He has not got his speech ready.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  When will the Social Welfare Bill be published?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Will the advisers pass it?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I expect the Social Welfare Bill to be published early next month.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Will the Taoiseach outline the progress made in encouraging fee paying schools to enter the free secondary scheme, which is one of the objectives of the Programme for Government?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  To what legislation, if any, is the Deputy referring?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There is no legislation promised in that area.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  On a point of order, I understand——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There can be no point of order now.

[2115]Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  It is an objective of the Programme for Government to encourage fee paying schools to enter the free secondary scheme. Under Standing Orders I am entitled to raise objectives which are part and parcel of the Programme for Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will decide such matters, not you.

(Interruptions.)

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  Will the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht state if the report of the management committee on the Burren will be brought before the House so that we can debate it? We seem to be moving towards an acceptable resolution——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This matter can be dealt with in so many other ways.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  We do not yet know the detail.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is a matter for the Whips and perhaps the Deputy should contact her party Whip.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  On a point of clarification, does the Social Welfare Bill have to be passed by both Houses before 6 April?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I assure the Deputy that all the requirements in regard to publication and debate on the Bill will be fulfilled.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  If the Bill will not be published until early next month when will it be passed by the House which will not meet for one week in March?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Obviously the rest of March will be available for that purpose.


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