Tuesday, 11 May 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 3, Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution (No. 2) Bill, 1999 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 31, the Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Bill, 1999 [Seanad] – Committee and Remaining Stages.
It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Second Stage of No. 3 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 6.30 p.m.; and Private Members' business shall be No. 54, Local Government (Planning and Development)(Amendment) Bill, 1999 – Second Stage and the proceedings on the Second Stage thereof, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday 12 May.
Mr. Quinn: In respect of that proposal, is it the Taoiseach's intention, some time today, to avail of Standing Orders to make a personal statement to clarify the record in respect of the matter I raised under Standing Order 31?
Mr. Quinn: With respect, Sir, it would enable the Taoiseach to indicate his intentions with respect to this matter. There is a clear conflict between what the Tánaiste said last Friday and what the Taoiseach said on 28 May to the House. Previously, when such a contradiction was brought to the attention of any Member of the House it was considered reasonable and proper to give the Member concerned an opportunity to clarify the record. Since in this instance the matter relates to the Taoiseach, who is ordering business and asking us to agree to a specific Order, before we agree to the Order of Business, will he indicate to the House if he intends to avail of the opportunity to set the record straight?
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Wright, G. V.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Gilmore, Éamon. Gormley, John.
| O'Shea, Brian.
Mr. J. Bruton: The House is facing an unsatisfactory situation in that on the face of the Official Report and the tribunal record there is a contradiction between what the Taoiseach told the Dáil on 28 May 1998 and what the Tánaiste told the tribunal last week. I understand the Taoiseach is saying that the Official Report does not accurately reflect what he meant—
Mr. J. Bruton: On a point of order, I seek your guidance as guardian of the Official Report. What course is open to the Taoiseach, if he is not able to make a personal statement about this matter, to indicate whether he was accurately reported in the Official Report of 28 May 1998?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There has been a reference to evidence given at the tribunal. For the benefit of Members, the relevance of evidence before a judicial tribunal of inquiry is not a matter for the Order of Business. The Dáil should not attempt to have a parallel tribunal on these matters.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It should be borne in mind that the tribunal was established by a resolution of this House and it does not give the House a right to attempt to interfere in any way with its proceedings. The resolution of this House establishing the tribunal was in pursuant of statute, the Tribunal of Inquiry Acts, 1920 to 1998, where the judicial proceedings, including evidence and the conduct of hearings held thereunder, are clearly the sole responsibility of its judicial chairman.
Mr. Quinn: Much effort goes into the operation of this House to ensure what is said on the record is accurately reported. I have brought to the attention of the public and the Taoiseach the fact there is a clear contradiction between what he said on 28 May and what was said by the Tánaiste last Friday. When such a contradiction occurs elsewhere, it is normal practice for the person to whose attention the contradiction has been drawn to come into the House to seek to clarify it. All  the Taoiseach has said so far is that a full reading of the text would not give one the impression that there is a contradiction, and that was said on his behalf last night. That is simply not the case.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: On the inaccuracies in the Dáil report, it is a long standing tradition that the Official Report, although not strictly verbatim, is substantially the verbatim report with repetitions and redundancies omitted and obvious mistakes corrected but which, on the other hand, leaves out nothing which—
In this sense, the Official Report is intended to be a full report of the proceedings in the House. As Members are aware, the Official Report of the Dáil is published as unrevised and Deputies have up to 14 days after publication to bring corrections to the notice of the Editor of Debates who is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the report.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not a matter for the Order of Business and I have already ruled on the matter. I call Deputy Joe Higgins. Will he raise something appropriate to the Order of Business?
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): I wish to raise a different matter regarding legislation. In view of the alarming statement by a building society chief that house prices will rise into the next millennium and the clear failure of legislation, to date, to end the suffering caused by the housing crisis, will any amending legislation be brought before the Dáil to curb the onward rise in house prices and to end speculation—
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): On the OECD's demand that a home tax be imposed and that mortgage interest relief be removed, does this reflect any legislative intent on the part of this Government or does that demand come in any way from it?
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): On promised legislation, as the House will know the most unspeakable barbarities, including ethnic cleansing, genocide and rape, have occurred in Kosovo. On 17 July last Ireland attended the international diplomatic conference in Rome under the aegis of the United Nations. On 7 October Ireland signed the statute to establish the international criminal court, yet eight months later, we still have not moved to introduce the necessary legislation to ratify it. When may we expect the legislation?
Mrs. Owen: Does the Taoiseach intend to introduce legislation to change the hours of work Bill which will affect the work of junior doctors in hospitals? As he will know, they are disputing what the Government plans to do. Will the Taoiseach use his renowned skills to intervene in the scaffolding strike which is bringing many of the building sites around the city and country to a halt and is preventing investment?
Mr. Howlin: I will restart my preamble. As regards one of the contradictory statements yesterday by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, how many refugees from Kosovo will this country accommodate? I wish to refer to a related matter – asylum seekers and the long promised legislation to allow work permits to be given to them. Is there agreement in Government on that matter and when will see that proposal?
Mr. Howlin: I refer to two statements – one by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, made yesterday in Kerry and another by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, yesterday on Today FM. I will put them on the record for the Taoiseach if he wishes.
The Taoiseach: The Government has, at this stage, agreed to accept 1,000 refugees who will come to this country in the next few weeks. Arrangements are being made by the Minister and the agencies to make sure they are catered for adequately and properly with interpretation facilities and so on. When that is done, if there are more requests and if we have locations, about which we are at all times taking soundings, we will go further. At this stage, our priority is to make sure we can cater for those who are on the way, and that is what we have been doing for the past number of weeks.
Mr. Currie: When we were in Government there were demands from the Opposition benches almost weekly for the introduction of an adoption contact register but two years later, what has happened to it? I notice Deputy McGennis has been very quiet. Did she swallow her tongue in the past two years?
The Taoiseach: To address the information rights, search and reunion services for those formally and informally adopted, the heads of a Bill are in preparation in the Department and it is expected that they will be submitted in the autumn of this year.
Mr. Sargent: Like others, I wish to ask about unspeakable barbarities, those perpetrated against children in our country – I know this matter will be debated on Thursday. On related promised legislation, will the mental health Bill be taken soon, as proposed, as well as the human rights commission Bill, so that we will have the opportunity to prevent programmes coming to light in ten or 15 years time about the present situation? Will the OECD report be debated in the House in light of the serious warning bells it sounds for Ireland?
Ms Fitzgerald: Is it the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to amend the parental leave legislation which was introduced some time ago and which has been found to be in breach of EU law?
Mr. J. Bruton: Earlier Deputy Jim Higgins raised the International Criminal Court. Why were the constitutional difficulties which have arisen not identified during the negotiations before Ireland signed the necessary documents? If they had been identified at that stage we would not find ourselves in a position of bad faith by virtue of not implementing something we signed.
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