Thursday, 6 June 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: 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.
Mr. B. 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  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——
Miss 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,  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: 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  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  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: 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: 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  relies so much on voluntary compliance as well as on the possibility of sanction, with the maximum degree of political and social agreement.
The Taoiseach: 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.
Dr. 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: 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: 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?
Miss 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?
Mr. H. 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?
The Taoiseach: 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. E. 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?
The Taoiseach: 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.
Mr. 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: 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: 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?
Mr. 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?
Mr. 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.
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