Thursday, 17 December 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. a16, motion re Comptroller and Auditor General and Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Special Provisions) Act, 1998; No. b16, motion re financial resolution for Fisheries and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill, 1998; No. 32a, motion re Freedom of Information Act, 1997, regulations draft; No. 34, statements on the European Summit; No. 35, statements on Northern Ireland; No. 35a, statements on the report on Tallaght Hospital; No. 36, statements on taxis; No. 7, subject to the Bill being returned from Select Committee, the Fisheries and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill, 1998, Report and Final Stages to be taken following the announcement of matters on the Adjournment under Standing Order 21 and the order shall resume thereafter.
It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) Nos. a16, b16 and 32a shall be taken without debate; (2) the proceedings on No. 34, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes and the speakers shall be called in the following sequence and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the opening speech of the Taoiseach and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of the main spokesperson for the Democratic Left Party and the Green Party shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (iii) and a Minister or Minister of State, shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes; (3) the proceedings  on No. 35, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes and the speakers shall be called in the following sequence and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the opening speech of the Taoiseach and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of the main spokesperson for the Democratic Left Party shall not exceed ten minutes; (iii) and the speech of a representative of the Independent Deputies shall not exceed five minutes; (4) the proceedings on No. 35a, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes and the speakers shall be called in the following sequence and the following arrangements shall apply:
(i) the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of the main spokesperson for the Democratic Left Party shall not exceed ten minutes; (iii) the speech of the main spokespersons for the Green Party shall not exceed five minutes.
The following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. 36: (i) the opening speech of the Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; and (iii) Members may share time.
Subject to the Bill being returned from Select Committee, the Report and Final Stages of No. 7 shall be taken without debate, by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments to the Bill, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are seven proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. a16, b16 and 32a agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 34 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 35 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 35a agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 36 agreed to?
Mr. Quinn: No. May I seek clarification in relation to this matter? As I understand the order, the House will rise at 4.45 p.m. and adjourn until 27 January 1999. I cannot reconcile the order to which we are now agreeing and the decision which you have made with regard to the matter raised by Deputy Noonan and me, how we can fit that item into the timeframe to which we are now agreeing and take all of the business on the programme for today's Order of Business. I seek an amendment so that the Dáil may rise at a time it may decide following a meeting of the Whips. We may need extra time.
Mr. J. Bruton: I wish to propose an amendment to that to the effect that the Dáil on its rising today shall not adjourn without first having heard and expressed its satisfaction through a vote with the explanations offered in regard to the appointment of a tax appeals commissioner and also the jurisprudence as far as tax law is concerned in the matter of capital acquisitions from non-residents.
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not in order for a Member of the Opposition to propose an amendment to the Order of Business; that is the prerogative of the Taoiseach. The Deputy may express his view by opposing the proposal.
Mr. J. Bruton: I accept your ruling, a Cheann Comhairle. That is the prerogative of the Taoiseach, but I wish to express my opposition to the motion in the sense that we cannot agree any such motion now because we have not heard any adequate explanations about this appointment.
Mr. Quinn: I know that Opposition Deputies and parties do not have the right to propose an amendment to the Order of Business but the Taoiseach does have such a right. I ask the Taoiseach to agree to an arrangement, the details of which will be negotiated by the Whips, whereby the House will not automatically rise at 4.45 p.m.
The Taoiseach: A Cheann Comhairle, there will have to be a new order today anyway because you have allowed a request to raise a matter under Standing Order 31, which means that the business between 3.30 p.m. and 4.45 p.m. must be pushed back. That would still mean that, under any new order, the House would adjourn at that stage. The Dáil on its rising today at whatever time is agreed — the Government Whip will put a time on it later — shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 27 January 1999. That is how I see today's business.
Mr. J. Bruton: This is a matter of great public concern and Members of the House should not underestimate the extent of public feeling on this matter. I say that responsibly. The House cannot agree this morning on an adjournment of the Dáil for over a month in these circumstances. It may well be that when we hear the explanations this afternoon there will not be any difficulty, but we have not heard any explanations which would convince us of that.
Mr. M. Higgins: I seek your guidance, a Cheann Comhairle, in relation to the position which arises with regard to Private Notice Questions before we accept or do not accept this ordering of business. You have decided in favour of one of two matters which were submitted to you at the start of business. This means that those of us who wish to raise the matter of UNSCOM and Iraq have only the mechanism of Private Notice Questions in the Chamber. What is the position now in relation to a Private Notice Question? Will it be facilitated in the normal way at the end of Question Time?
An Ceann Comhairle: The order is before the House and I have decided on one request under Standing Order 31. That precludes consideration of any other request under Standing Order 31. If it might satisfy the Deputy, I will allow a brief question from party leaders on that subject if we get to the Order of Business. The sooner the Deputy allows the Chair to proceed, the sooner we can take brief questions on that matter.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): I fully appreciate the importance of what you have chosen under Standing Order 31 but under Standing Order 21 there is a facility for Private Notice Questions. In view of the attack on Iraq which is convulsing the world, I ask that you would make provision today for Private Notice Questions under Standing Order 21. If necessary, the Dáil can meet tomorrow, Friday.
Mr. Quinn: A Cheann Comhairle, we appreciate  that you have agreed to a Standing Order No. 31 request resulting in an alteration to the Order of Business. I am seeking clarification in support of the point made by Deputy Bruton that we cannot agree to the adjournment of the Dáil at some time today without hearing the consequences of the debate for which you have made provision. If the Government wishes to run away from the public outrage it can do so.
Mr. Quinn: I do not want to find myself in a  situation whereby we agree to No. 7 and cannot raise the issue of the Dáil coming back tomorrow morning, for example, to deal with the consequences of what might be revealed. I am not agreeing to adjourn at some time today until 27th January. The Taoiseach can resolve this matter by making time available for a new order which does not commit the House to rise today at whatever time.
The Taoiseach: I do not wish to create any confusion. A Cheann Comhairle, the order which will come back from the Government Chief Whip will be to make time available to deal with the issue on which you have ruled. However, the order will not change the arrangements for the House to rise today. I am sticking to my proposal that, at the end of today's business, the House rises until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 27 January 1999.
|Ahern, Bertie.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Ahern, Dermot.||Kenneally, Brendan.|
|Ahern, Michael.||Kirk, Séamus.|
|Ahern, Noel.||Kitt, Michael.|
|Ardagh, Seán.||Kitt, Tom.|
|Aylward, Liam.||Lawlor, Liam.|
|Blaney, Harry.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Lenihan, Conor.|
|Brady, Martin.||McCreevy, Charlie.|
|Brennan, Matt.||McGennis, Marian.|
|Brennan, Séamus.||McGuinness, John.|
|Briscoe, Ben.||Martin, Micheál.|
|Browne, John (Wexford).||Moffatt, Thomas.|
|Callely, Ivor.||Moloney, John.|
|Carey, Pat.||Moynihan, Donal.|
|Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Coughlan, Mary.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Cowen, Brian.||O'Dea, Willie.|
|Cullen, Martin.||O'Donnell, Liz.|
|Daly, Brendan.||O'Donoghue, John.|
|Davern, Noel.||O'Flynn, Noel.|
|de Valera, Síle.||O'Hanlon, Rory.|
|Dempsey, Noel.||O'Keeffe, Batt.|
|Doherty, Seán.||O'Kennedy, Michael.|
|Ellis, John.||O'Malley, Desmond.|
|Fahey, Frank.||O'Rourke, Mary.|
|Fleming, Seán.||Power, Seán.|
|Foley, Denis.||Roche, Dick.|
|Fox, Mildred.||Ryan, Eoin.|
|Gildea, Thomas.||Smith, Brendan.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Smith, Michael.|
|Harney, Mary.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Wade, Eddie.|
|Healy-Rae, Jackie.||Wallace, Dan.|
|Jacob, Joe.||Walsh, Joe.|
|Keaveney, Cecilia.||Wright, G. V.|
|Ahearn, Theresa.||Connaughton, Paul.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Cosgrave, Michael.|
|Barrett, Seán.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Boylan, Andrew.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Broughan, Thomas.||Creed, Michael.|
|Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).||Currie, Austin.|
|Bruton, John.||D'Arcy, Michael.|
|Bruton, Richard.||De Rossa, Proinsias.|
|Burke, Ulick.||Deasy, Austin.|
|Carey, Donal.||Deenihan, Jimmy.|
|Clune, Deirdre.||Durkan, Bernard.|
|Enright, Thomas.||Neville, Dan.|
|Ferris, Michael.||Noonan, Michael.|
|Finucane, Michael.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghin.|
|Fitzgerald, Frances.||O'Keeffe, Jim.|
|Flanagan, Charles.||O'Shea, Brian.|
|Gilmore, Éamon.||O'Sullivan, Jan.|
|Gormley, John.||Owen, Nora.|
|Hayes, Brian.||Penrose, William.|
|Higgins, Jim.||Quinn, Ruairí.|
|Higgins, Joe.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Higgins, Michael.||Reynolds, Gerard.|
|Hogan, Philip.||Ring, Michael.|
|Howlin, Brendan.||Ryan, Seán.|
|Kenny, Enda.||Shatter, Alan.|
|McDowell, Derek.||Sheehan, Patrick.|
|McGahon, Brendan.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|McGrath, Paul.||Stanton, David.|
|McManus, Liz.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Mitchell, Gay.||Upton, Pat.|
|Mitchell, Olivia.||Wall, Jack.|
|Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.||Yates, Ivan.|
Mr. G. Mitchell: I have been asking patiently in the House about the legislation on the Convention for the Protection of UN Personnel and other Persons Serving Abroad. Irish officers are serving on the Iraq-Kuwait border. I have been pressing the Government to introduce the legislation which cannot take effect internationally until 21 countries sign it, so we can press other states to do so. Will the Taoiseach bring forward this legislation in the new session as a matter of urgency? Perhaps we could start Question Time a half an hour earlier today. I realise the Ceann Comhairle has already been very generous in his interpretation of Standing Orders so I will not press this matter too far. It will be hard to explain to people how the House adjourned without discussing Iraq, particularly since Irish officers are serving on the Iraq-Kuwait border. I ask that the Private Notice Question which I put down last night be allowed and perhaps we can start Question Time a half an hour early to allow for that.
Mr. Quinn: Does the Taoiseach agree the unilateral action taken by the US and UK forces against the people of Iraq is unwarranted? Does he agree the security council should at least have had the opportunity to discuss the contents of the Butler report from UNSCOM on allegations of non-compliance with the inspection force by the Iraqi Government? Does the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Taoiseach intend to raise this matter with our European colleagues to ensure the institutions of international security affairs under the aegis of the United Nations are properly respected? The actions taken last night and apparently between now and the commencement of Ramadan will kill Iraqi men, women and children and will not, in so far as we can see, have any effect on the lethal capacity of Saddam Hussein to wage aggression on his neighbours.
Proinsias De Rossa: No. 42 — statements on Iraq — has been on the Order Paper for some time. Will the Taoiseach, in considering a new date for the adjournment of the House, provide time for statements on this attack on the people of Iraq? Was the Taoiseach, the Government or the Minister for Foreign Affairs briefed by the United States before or since the attack? Is Shannon being used as a stopover for refuelling, as was the case during the last Gulf War? Does the Taoiseach accept that this attack on the people of Iraq is in gross breach of the United Nations charter and that no resolutions currently provide for military action against Iraq? No opportunity has been given for a debate on the Butler report at the security council. Does the Taoiseach agree we also need to raise at UN level the manner in which sanctions causing the death of 6,000 children per month are being imposed on Iraq?
Mr. Gormley: Does the Taoiseach accept this is a clear breach of international law? Does he agree this is a cynical attempt by President Clinton to divert attention from his domestic difficulties? Is it not outrageous that innocent people can lose their lives so President Clinton can save his political skin? Will the Taoiseach dissociate himself, in the same way as the French, Chinese and Russian Governments have done, from this attack and make it clear where he stands on this atrocity? Does the Taoiseach agree the Iraqi people are suffering, despite what Tony Blair has said? Does he accept the findings of Deputy Albert Reynolds and Senator Lanigan who have gone out of their way to show that the Iraqi  people are suffering? Will the Taoiseach tell President Clinton he cannot use Shannon as a base, if it is being used?
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): Will the Taoiseach condemn, in front of the world, this appalling deployment of destructive military capacity against Iraq? Will he warn against the slaughter and injury of innocent Iraqi children, women and men, compounding the crimes of the economic embargo against the Iraqi people, as a result of which up to 5,000 children die each month from a lack of medicine? Will the Taoiseach point out that the result of previous attacks was to allow the merciless dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to continue, rather than weakening him? Will the Taoiseach condemn the transparent hypocrisy and fathomless opportunism of this attack on the day when impeachment proceedings were to begin against the US president?
Innocent lives are being sacrificed to save the political hide of the president of the most powerful country on earth. Will the Taoiseach publicly rebuke the craven support of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, for this bombing? Will he declare that those who paraded themselves as peacemakers following the atrocity of Omagh cannot do that and reconcile it with being the destroyers of the Iraqi people? Will he call for an immediate end to this atrocity?
The Taoiseach: The air strikes against Iraq by the United States and Britain took place following the report of the UN inspectors, UNSCOM, stating it would be unable to complete its work on the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction because of obstruction by the Iraqi authorities. This Government regrets that it was impossible for the UNSCOM team of inspectors to complete its work. We are disappointed that the use of force was deemed necessary.
Iraq must comply fully with the decision of the United Nations security council and international law must be respected and upheld. The security council has met to discuss the issue. It is important that following the air strikes, the emphasis should be placed on the efforts to resolve the crisis by peaceful means, avoiding the loss of innocent lives. We would also like to see, regardless of any dispute with the Iraqi Government, the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people being properly addressed. I join those who have emphasised for many months that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people cannot be ignored in these circumstances.
The use of force should be kept to a minimum to avoid further suffering by the Iraqi people and the potentially destabilising consequences in the Middle East. The Government is maintaining close contact with its partners in the EU and is monitoring developments in the UN through our UN delegation in New York. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has been dealing with this matter.
Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Taoiseach accept that many people have a difficulty with the fact that this decision has been taken by the military authorities in two states, without consulting other European states and that there is a lack of information on the legal basis for the attack? There is also a lack of information on the causes of the attack. Will the Taoiseach ask the Austrian Presidency of the European Union to convene a meeting where all EU members will be informed of why this attack has been carried out, the implications of it for European relations with the Arab world and Islamic countries and the level of UN approval of the measures being taken?
Mr. M. Higgins: In what circumstances was the decision to withdraw UNSCOM taken? Was it taken with the permission of the Secretary General of the UN? What diplomatic discussion took place which involved Ireland, its European partners or anybody else? Does the Taoiseach accept the principle that the UN, in its decision making process, is seriously damaged when two members of the Security Council abrogate the right to interpret UN resolutions, their implementation and the conditions attaching to their implementation? Finally, will the Minister for Foreign Affairs seek meetings with his partners — it is not clear from the Taoiseach's statement what precise meetings will take place and when — to discuss the relevant policy aspects? Will the Taoiseach unequivocally deplore the replacement of diplomacy by military action? This is a matter of principle.
Proinsias De Rossa: The Taoiseach's reply to the earlier questions was disgraceful. Without saying so and using weasel words, the Taoiseach is supporting the bombing of Iraq. This is in blatant breach of Article 29.2 of the Constitution which states “Ireland affirms its adherence to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination.”. In his reply the Taoiseach said  that following the air strikes he hopes to have discussions and that the military operation should be kept to a minimum. Will he explain how this can be reconciled with the obligation on the Government to pursue Article 29 of the Constitution? Was the Government briefed beforehand and has it been briefed since the start of these attacks on Iraq by the US? The question concerning refuelling at Shannon Airport has not been answered.
Mr. Gormley: Will the Taoiseach tell the House how it is possible to avoid the loss of innocent lives when hundreds of cruise missiles are fired into a city? Will he explain his understanding of how this is not a breach of international law? It is a clear breach of international law. Will he unequivocally condemn this attack or at least disassociate himself from it? From what I have heard the Opposition is in agreement that this is unacceptable.
The Taoiseach: I hope it has stopped. The Government, through the Minister for Foreign Affairs, is maintaining close contact with our EU colleagues. This morning there was a likelihood that there may be a meeting.
The Taoiseach: Earlier this morning the Minister for Foreign Affairs would have been pleased to come to the House to debate this issue, but other events were given precedence. I am not aware of any proposals or requests for refuelling at Shannon by US military planes involved in Gulf operations. The issue concerning the mandate is disputed. The US and Britain see their actions as justified under earlier Security Council resolutions threatening the severest consequences if Iraq did not comply with the council's decisions. This is disputed by Russia and others, and the Security Council is still discussing the issue, as it was last night.
The Taoiseach: It is not a simple question. The EU has repeatedly called on Iraq to comply with the decisions of the Security Council, but there is no EU position on specific enforcement actions such as last night's strikes.
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