Order of Business.

Thursday, 6 June 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 466 No. 5

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is proposed to take No. 1, Report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on Estimates for Public Services, Foreign Affairs Group; No. 6, Estimates for Public Services, 1996, Supplementary Estimate — Vote 38 only; No. 14, Criminal Law Bill, 1996, Second Stage (Resumed) and No. 3, Garda Síochána Bill, 1996, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is also proposed, notwithstanding Standing Orders, that No. 6 shall be decided without debate and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith. Private Members' Business shall be No. 26, Motion re Tourism.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 6 agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  By the time the House meets again I hope the all-party talks will have commenced. Like everyone else, I hope they will be successful. I urge the Taoiseach and both Governments to make every possible effort in the final few days to try to create the conditions, as they are trying to do, to bring people of all political persuasions to the table. I readily acknowledge that this is not totally within the Taoiseach's hands and urge the IRA to renew its [1222] ceasefire and allow Sinn Féin to operate the mandate given to it in a democratic election. It will be a significant setback for democratic policies and Members of the House who have worked together if the all-party talks do not commence and are not successful. In agreeing the Supplementary Estimate, Vote 38, which provides a sum of £500,000 for the all-party talks, I hope the decommission issue which has become an obsession is kept in perspective and left for negotiation, as recommended by the former Senator Mitchell, and not used in other ways. It will be unhelpful and hard line attitude——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That should be adequate, Deputy.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  ——if the issue of decommissioning is allowed to dominate the talks.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I hesitate to rule having regard to the circumstances prevailing, unless the Taoiseach wishes to reply. On that basis I call Deputy Harney.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I welcome the opportunity — the last before Monday — to wish the Government and all the parties which will participate in the talks well. Everyone who attends the talks has a responsibility to show real leadership. We are at the dawn of a new era of reconciliation on this island although last night's statement by the IRA shows scant regard for the aspirations and hopes of many people on both sides of the island and throughout Britain, the United States and elsewhere. Every friend of Ireland wants to see a ceasefire, a total cessation of violence, not a tactical ceasefire. We must be clear that politics is incompatible with violence, and I support both Governments in taking a firm stand.

In wishing the Government well, if it is the case that Sinn Féin is absent from next Monday's talks as Séamus Mallon, the Deputy Leader of the SDLP said, [1223] his party is more than capable of representing and putting the Nationalist case. We must never forget that. They are the real people of courage who never supported violence and we should stand by them and support them. From next Monday we can put centuries of conflict behind us if people are big enough to compromise and really want to do a deal. The momentum which started a number of years ago is unstoppable and sooner rather than later it will lead to a lasting settlement in Northern Ireland and on this island. The Taoiseach and the Government have my full support — and that of my party — in this.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I thank the House for its support for the work being done to make sure that the talks which will commence next Monday are a success. It is important to put what will happen next Monday in an historic context. There has been a conflict of allegiance, which has, unfortunately, taken the form of the use of arms at times, and a conflict of political views in and around Northern Ireland for many years. What has finally come to be realised by all political leaders is that this conflict cannot be resolved other than by dialogue. It is important that people have the courage to translate that intellectural conviction, which they have all reached and upon which all are agreed, into practical immediate compromises around the talks table.

On the part of the IRA what is required is a restoration of the cessation of violence so that Sinn Féin can take part in what they have sought for years, an opportunity for direct dialogue with all other parties. It is important to recollect that the campaigning demand for the republican movement, for many years, has been peace talks now — now is next Monday. The responsibility for ensuring that Sinn Féin can take part in those talks rests on the shoulders of those who have the capacity to decide to restore the cessation of violence that was put in place in August 1994, without [1224] any specific date for all-party talks being agreed. A specific date for all-party talks has now been agreed, which is next Monday. If there was a case for a cessation of violence in August 1994 without a date for talks, without a detailed arrangement for talks, surely there is a double if not quadruple case for a cessation of violence now?

Let me say further that I believe the responsibility does not stop there. There is a responsibility on all participants, whether they be of the Unionist or Nationalist tradition or of neither, to compromise and endeavour to understand the fears and allegiances of their traditional antagonists. Compromise will be required from all. This generation of political leaders, of whatever persuasion, will not be forgiven if the opportunity available next Monday is not taken up and used to the full.

I pay a particular tribute to the work the Tánaiste has done on behalf of the Irish Government in recent days in his negotiations with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. These have been negotiations of extraordinary complexity and of great difficulty. The Tánaiste has shown tremendous skill, patience and vision in the way he has managed the substance of those negotiaitons on behalf of the Government. I wish to make my tribute to him on that matter known in the House.

I am very glad we have substantially reached agreement on all major points on which we had hoped to be able to reach agreement before 10 June. Everything is in place and the details will be announced this afternoon for a successful commencement of the talks as far as the Governments can make it so on Monday next.

I should also like to express my thanks to Deputies Bertie Ahern and Harney not just for what they have said this morning but also for the constructive and probing approach they have adopted in recent days in regard to this matter, an approach which clearly recognises that what is at stake next Monday transcends party or faction in [1225] any part of this island. This is an opportunity for all of us and it is important that everything has been done by the Government to ensure that opportunity can be taken by all.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  On promised legislation, in view of the fact that on 20 February last the Taoiseach promised the Government's Adoption Bill would be ready in the first half of this year, since we have practically reached the end of the first half of this year, will he say whether that Bill is ready, when it will be published and whether Members will have any opportunity to debate it this session?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Work is proceeding as planned on that Bill. I am hopeful that we will see results quite soon.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  This session?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If possible, yes.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  That is what the Taoiseach promised.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Work is being processed with a view to being able to have the Bill before the House this session. I cannot give a cast iron guarantee on that point but that is the working assumption.

Mr. Kenneally: Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Since every time one inquires about the Equal Status Bill it appears to have been sliding backwards, will the Taoiseach say what is the latest projected date for its introduction?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I understand the work programme would suggest that that Bill will be available for consideration by the House in the second half of the year. It is important to say that the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, in addition to his continuous involvement in the drafting of this legislation is seeking to consult and discuss its content with all interested parties so that fears that may have existed can be allayed and we can proceed with this Bill, which [1226] relies so much on voluntary compliance as well as on the possibility of sanction, with the maximum degree of political and social agreement.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Will the Taoiseach arrange for Government time to discuss the Forfás report, the expressed wish of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I thank the Deputy for raising that matter this morning. I suggest that she contact Deputy Dermot Ahern, her party Whip, who I have no doubt will discuss the matter on her party's behalf with the Government Whip with a view to reaching agreement.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The Taoiseach is so funny.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Will the Taoiseach say when the Bill amending the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, will be ready? Unless taken in this session, the deadline of October next will have passed which will be a tremendous loss to the acqualculture industry. It is a most important Bill requiring to be introduced very soon.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I answered questions on this matter in the past two weeks when I explained that this Bill is being drafted on a priority basis. It is a 71 section Bill but we hope to have it available to the House some time in the second half of this year.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  On 16 May the Taoiseach told me he hoped to have the Telecommunications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, to establish an independent regulator for telecommunications, ready before the summer recess. What is the present position with regard to that Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There is no change in the position I outlined to the House when Deputy Séamus Brennan last asked me about the matter.

[1227]Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  Will the Taoiseach inform the House of the position with regard to the National Cultural Institutions (Indemnities and Miscelleanous Provisions) Bill which, according to the Government, was to be published prior to the summer recess? Does that remain the position?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We hope to be able to publish that Bill during the month of July.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  What is the present position of the Minerals Development Bill promised last year?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The general scheme of this Bill is at present being considered. In other words, we have not yet got to its drafting. It is not possible to give a precise date for its introduction.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  Will the Taoiseach say when the Wildlife Bill will be introduced to give legal effect to proposed national heritage areas?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I expect that legislation will be available in October or November of this year. Its heads have been approved and it is at present being drafted.

Cecilia Keaveney: Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Will the Taoiseach say when the Indexation of Fines Bill will be introduced?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The present position in regard to that matter is not known. Work on it is at a very early stage.

Mr. H. Byrne: Information on Hugh Byrne  Zoom on Hugh Byrne  In view of mounting concerns that cuts in the price of beef being paid to farmers are not being passed on to consumers, does Government inaction to protect consumers from this profiteering mean that existing legislation is inadequate and are there any plans to amend it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy's [1228] question is vague, he should table a question on the matter.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It is not on the list.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We are having quite a deviation from the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is in the interests of those who are engaged in making their living through the sale of beef, at retail or farm level, to ensure its consumption is increased and maintained. Therefore, it is in the interests of those in the retail trade in particular, to ensure that any reductions in the price of the product bought by them is reflected in a fall in the price of the product to their customers, otherwise they will not achieve their objective of increasing and maintaining the sales of the product from which they derive their livelihoods. That is a matter of common sense.

Mr. H. Byrne: Information on Hugh Byrne  Zoom on Hugh Byrne  That is not happening.

Dr. Moffat: Information on Tom Moffatt  Zoom on Tom Moffatt  Will the Taoiseach indicate when the Government will provide time to discuss the White Paper on Mental Health?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That question must be put in another way at another time.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  In the light of this morning's news of the increase in the short-term facility in the Central Bank, does the Taoiseach realise the urgency of the prompt payments Bill which will affect small businesses?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  What legislation is involved here?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As the Deputy knows well, if my recollection does not fail me, I believe I answered a question from him on that during the past seven days. I am surprised the Deputy needs to have his memory jogged so frequently.

[1229]Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  The Taoiseach's memory needs jogging.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That legislation will be introduced in the second half of this year in accordance with present plans.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Will the Taoiseach outline the legislative or other measures he intends to introduce to deal with the serious issue of drug abuse, counselling detoxification and other matters related to illegal drug taking?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Has the Deputy specific legislation in mind?

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  What legislation does the Taoiseach intend to introduce in this area?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This is not Question Time and I cannot permit a mini Question Time.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Will the Taoiseach indicate if legislation is promised in this area?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I would prefer if the Deputy referred to specific legislation.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am surprised the Deputy is not aware that the drug trafficking Bill is currently being considered by a committee of the House.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  That does not deal with abuse, counselling or detoxification. It is a disgrace that no legislation is in place to deal with those matters.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  On proposed legislation, will the Taoiseach indicate when it is proposed to introduce amended regulations or legislation to appoint consumers to An Bord Bia?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Very soon.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  On promised legislation, will the Taoiseach indicate when [1230] the broadcasting Bill will be introduced?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That legislation will be ready either in the second half of this year or very early next year.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  Does the Chair intend to lean to the left a little this morning?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I had in mind to call the Deputy at the appropriate time.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I wish to raise a matter on the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I apologise to the Deputy. I had in mind to call him later to let us have a report on the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs which he chairs. That is the reason I omitted to call him.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I am always pleased that the Chair has me in mind, but I have another question which I wish to ask.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy is in possession.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  Will the Taoiseach indicate when it is proposed to introduce item No. 13 on the Order Paper, a motion to ratify the terms of the convention on chemical weapons and, when it is taken, will the Government allow time for a brief debate?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Why did the Deputy not ask his Whip about it?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  They are not talking.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I am in a good humour this morning. I would hate Deputy O'Rourke to tempt me into suggesting that she might be one of the chemical weapons we want to suppress. Will the Taoiseach make time available for a brief debate as a number of Members wish to mark the occasion?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am glad to be able [1231] to respond positively to the Deputy. We will deal with that matter next week and there will be a debate on it.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The Taoiseach did not tell me the same thing. The Taoiseach has his favourites although he tries to keep that quiet.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I note Deputy Kenneally is offering again. Second rounds are something I do not normally condone.

Mr. Kenneally: Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  On promised legislation, will the Taoiseach indicate when legislation will be introduced to deal with the Land Registry Office? I have a great interest in that legislation because of the proposed decentralisation of that office to Waterford, which appears to be moving very slowly, something that is not unusual with this Government.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We hope that legislation will be available in the first half of 1997.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  Will the Taoiseach indicate when the important fraud offences Bill will be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  In case the Deputy intends to ask the same question next week, I ask him to take note of the answer I am about to give him.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  That is nasty.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That legislation will be introduced in early 1997.

Mr. Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  The Deputy should not use the same piece of paper.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  The Minister ran home from the committee yesterday, he was not there to answer questions.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Will the Taoiseach indicate the position of the attachment of earnings Bill?

[1232]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That legislation is at an early stage of preparation and it is not possible to give any date as to when it will be ready.


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