Order of Business.

Thursday, 17 December 1998

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 498 No. 6

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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 [1407] 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.

The Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 27 January 1999.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  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. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Will you clarify the arrangements for the special debate which you have permitted? Will it start at 3.30 p.m. and run until the House rises or will it run to a set time?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It will start at 3.30 p.m. and run until the House rises unless the Dáil appoints another time.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Will the debate commence at 3.30 p.m.?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Yes.

[1408]Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Are the Whips to meet to consider for how long the debate might run?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Whips are free to meet any time.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  There is absolutely no gain in saying that. Do you have any guidance to offer on this matter?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The normal procedure is that it will take place at 3.30 p.m.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Until 4.45 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Yes.

A Deputy:  Or longer.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  On the same matter, because I am not sure whether——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  May we dispose of the matter we are discussing, No. 36, statements on Taxis?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It will not happen now.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 36 agreed? Agreed? Is the proposal for dealing with No. 7 agreed?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot propose an amendment.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am suggesting that the Taoiseach can propose this. We may, following the outcome of the debate, not wish to rise today. We cannot anticipate that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We will deal with that on the next proposal. This proposal is——

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  You are asking the House to agree to rise at its normal time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  No. We are not on that proposal as yet. The proposal we are on at present is No. 7, which is the Fisheries and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill, 1998 — Report and Final Stages.

[1409]Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am referring to today's Order of Business, which states that the Dáil on its rising today——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  No. That is the next proposal.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Thank you, A Cheann Comhairle. I will return to it at that time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 7 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the adjournment of the Dáil agreed to?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  No, Sir.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  No, Sir.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí 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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  From an Opposition point of view if the explanations which are offered are not satisfactory, we will want the House to sit next week to deal with this matter.

[1410]Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  We know all about Christmas 1994.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. 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: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  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. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I am trying to facilitate the House but it would be outrageous if, given what has taken place, we did not have an opportunity of expressing our opinion before we go into recess.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is a matter for the Whips. We cannot have protracted discussion on a proposal like this.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I have been raising in the House the need to introduce legislation which is promised to protect——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We are not on the Order of Business; we are on proposals.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  A Cheann Comhairle, we appreciate [1411] 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. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  No one is running away.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If that is what the Government wishes to do then fair enough.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Let us have none of the Deputy's self-righteousness.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I do not want to find myself in a [1412] 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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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.

Question put.

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.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
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.
[1413]Enright, Thomas. [1414]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.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have already indicated to the House that I will allow Party Leaders or their nominees to ask a question on the Iraq situation.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I wish to nominate Deputy Gay Mitchell to ask a question.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay 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: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí 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: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias 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: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John 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 [1415] people are suffering? Will the Taoiseach tell President Clinton he cannot use Shannon as a base, if it is being used?

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe 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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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.

[1416] As regards the legislation raised by Deputy Mitchell, I will investigate that and let him know.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): The Taoiseach is justifying it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot have a debate on this matter. We are on the Order of Business and the Deputy should resume his seat.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): He said force should be kept to a minimum. Who decides the minimum?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will allow brief questions from party leaders or their nominees. We cannot have a debate on the matter as it is not provided for in Standing Orders.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I nominate Deputy Michael D. Higgins to raise a question.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. 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: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias 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 [1417] 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: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John 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.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  No.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Frankly, that does not surprise me. What contact has the Taoiseach had with the Americans, and is Shannon Airport being used?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I ask Deputy Joe Higgins to resume his seat. He has been dealt with very leniently in the House and has been given an opportunity.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I said I would have liked a situation where there was no force.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): The Taoiseach said force should be kept to a minimum.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It should now, and hopefully these matters can be resolved by peaceful means, as I have said several times.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  But the Taoiseach is not calling for it to be stopped.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Where is the common foreign and security policy now?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not know if that decision has been finally made, but when I spoke to the Minister this morning it was a likely possibility.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is there a common foreign and security policy?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is not Question Time.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This is the important question.

[1418]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Does the Taoiseach support the action of the US Government?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have said what I have said.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is a simple question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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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