Order of Business.

Tuesday, 23 May 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 519 No. 5

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 15, motion re report of the Committee on Members' Interests of Dáil Éireann; No. 1, Electronic Commerce Bill, 2000 – Second Stage; and No. 2, Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 2000 [Seanad] – Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 15 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' business shall be No. 95, motion re appointment of Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty to the European Investment Bank.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 15 agreed?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  My understanding is that on the first matter, No. 15, there was an agreement between the Whips that there would be three five-minute slots, that there would be a tight and constrained debate.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  So we have just been informed.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   (Dublin West): I wish to state my opposition to taking No. 15 without debate. Does the Taoiseach realise that the imposition of 14 days respite as a penalty for not declaring a serious conflict of interest by a Deputy who held an Ansbacher account makes a laughing stock of the Dáil? This matter should be debated.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I thank the members of the committee for the work they have done. This is a statutory committee, established under the ethics in public office legislation and I thank the members for the time they have devoted to dealing with this matter. I agree to allow each of the members of the committee to speak on the matter for five minutes.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Does this mean that Deputy Higgins and Green Party Members will have no opportunity to speak on this issue?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Deputy Quinn asked that members of the committee be allowed to speak. This is a statutory committee. In the normal course of events the chairman or a member of the committee might speak. It is proposed that three members of the committee speak for five minutes each. That is acceptable to me.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  That is not acceptable.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   (Dublin West): The Taoiseach is proposing that three members of the committee which conferred this holiday on Deputy Foley should explain their position but he makes no provision for those who may oppose their proposal. That is ludicrous.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy, are you proposing an amendment to the proposal?

[989]Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): I am asking the Taoiseach to allow time for Deputies who are opposed to this proposal.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Deputy Higgins has clearly read neither the Act nor the report.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Taoiseach has explained the position. Is the Order of Business, as amended, agreed to?

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): No.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  If a committee which is established on a statutory basis completes its work and wishes to report to the House, there is nothing to debate. We simply wish to allow the members of the committee to report to the House.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Not everyone agrees with the report.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The committee members will be reporting to the House and the House will listen to what they have to say.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 15, as amended, agreed?

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  It is not agreed.

Question, “That the proposal for dealing with No. 15, as amended, be agreed to,” put.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Vótáil.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Will the Deputies who are claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Higgins (Dublin West), Gormley and Sargent rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 68 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Official Report.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  On the Order of Business I call Deputy John Bruton.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  With regard to the appointment of Mr. O'Flaherty to the European Investment Bank, will the Government be willing to make available to the House the information that exists in documentary form on any negotiations that took place with Mr. O'Flaherty at the time of his resignation from the Supreme Court?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is the subject of debate this evening and it is not in order to raise the matter on the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I appreciate that, but I believe the debate would be better informed if we had [990] available any information that exists in documentary form on negotiations with Mr. O'Flaherty prior to his resignation from the Supreme Court and prior to the enactment of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) (Amendment) Act, 1999, to provide him with a pension.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  This does not arise under the Order of Business. There will be ample opportunity to debate the matter tonight. The Deputy will have to find another way to raise it as it is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We need the information for the debate this evening.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Ceann Comhairle has already ruled out the Standing Order 31 question on the matter.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  To proceed otherwise would mean the information required would be too late for tonight's debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I ask for silence in the Lobby. Deputy Bruton, I ask you not to pursue this matter now as it is the subject of a 90 minute debate tonight and tomorrow night. There will be ample opportunity for Members to discuss the matter tonight and tomorrow night and we are not having a debate on it now. I call Deputy Quinn.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The debate will not be adequately informed if we do not have the information.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Bruton, I ask you not to be disorderly.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Is it the Government's intention to introduce legislation to validate the appointment—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It is not appropriate to ask about legislation that is not promised. If we allowed that, every Deputy could ask a question on legislation. It is not appropriate.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Is legislation necessary to make this in order?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  No, it is not.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Will the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) (Amendment) Act, 1999, be repealed to at least remove the insult to the taxpayers who are called on to pay a pension of £40,000 to a person who—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not deal with promised legislation. I call Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Will there be a repeal of the legislation providing for a pension to Mr. O'Flaherty?

[991]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That deals with legislation. The question has already been ruled out by the Standing Orders.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I have not received an answer and there will be no opportunity for questions and answers in the debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There is no question on promised legislation. I call Members on another issue.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Within the constraints of the Standing Orders, which you, Sir, must administer impartially and which you are doing, there is room for a question in the light of this appointment. Is consequential legislation promised involving the repeal of legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There will be no such legislation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Before I call Deputy Gay Mitchell could we have silence in the Lobby or would Members leave it if they do not wish to remain silent?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  In relation to No. 61, a motion on human rights which has been adjourned for approximately 18 months and which contains an amendment in my name seeking the appointment of a Minister to co-ordinate immigrant affairs, when is it intended to resume this debate?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  As with any debate it is a matter for the Whips to agree a time.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  We have been waiting 18 months for the debate to resume. The proposed amendment is important and the debate should be allowed to conclude.

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  Will the Minister for Public Enterprise or any other member of the Government make a personal statement to apologise to the 500,000 shareholders in Eircom for the promise of making money on their shareholding? The value of their shares has suffered a further drop of 15%.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  How many shares did the Deputy buy?

(Interruptions).

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  The Minister got out when the going was good.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is not appropriate. I call Deputy Rabbitte.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  With regard to the dinner the Taoiseach and I attended yesterday, where the necessity for a financial regulations Bill was urged, and having regard to the fact that the Tánaiste and Minster for Enterprise, Trade and [992] Employment and the Minister for Finance are in close proximity, will the Taoiseach advise the House if there is agreement on the criticisms he heard at first hand yesterday?

Mr. McDowell: Information on Derek McDowell  Zoom on Derek McDowell  They have other things on their minds.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Do not mention Mr. Hickey.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Deputy Roche has his hands full at present. He should stick with that. When will the trade union recognition Bill be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Government finalised the trade union recognition Bill last week and it will be published shortly. Discussions are ongoing on the financial regulations legislation.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Did the Taoiseach take note of the exhortations of the Irish Insurance Federation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I understand that Bill was published yesterday.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Members who are appointed Commissioners of the EU must fulfil exacting ethics requirements regarding publication of their interests and so on. Will the Taoiseach indicate if that extends to other European institutions, such as the European Investment Bank?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It may not arise on the Order of Business, but it has arisen in every conversation elsewhere.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Will the Taoiseach indicate if the taxpayers must supplement the EU gravy train by £40,000 a year—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy will have an opportunity to raise these matters in the debate tonight and tomorrow night. I call Deputy Wall.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Will the Taoiseach indicate the representations that have been made to the UN and the Israeli authorities regarding the safety of our troops in the Lebanon?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That would be better raised by way of a question, but I accept it is a serious issue and I call on the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  We have received an extensive brief on this. The Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon was scheduled to be completed by 7 July. It began on 22 May but it appears from the last report I received – I have received a number in the past 24 hours – that it is likely to be completed in a matter of days, and perhaps hours. Reports received overnight and during the day [993] from New York and the embassy in Washington have provided me with all the details on that. From what I have heard before attending the House, reports may already have been overtaken by events. A statement will be issued later today, if it has not already been issued, by the President of the UN Security Council, which is China at present. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations will brief UNIFIL troops later. The contributing countries will also be briefed in New York. Ireland will be represented at that meeting.

There has also been a request that additional troops would be considered necessary by the UNIFIL group. The Government discussed that matter today and will have to give it consideration. The Department of Defence had anticipated dealing with that matter before 30 May. I have received an extensive brief which I will ask one of the Ministers, if the Deputy is interested, to examine. It is the details from China to the UN.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Is it possible hold a debate on this urgent matter in the House?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That would be a matter for the Whips.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I commend Deputy Wall on raising this very important matter. Is the Taoiseach satisfied there are adequate logistical arrangements in place in the eastern Mediterranean to protect UN forces in light of the military vacuum now being created in southern Lebanon, which could prove extremely dangerous to UN forces in that area? Will the Taoiseach engage in consultations today with all those who might be in a position to provide air support and whatever other support is necessary to protect UN forces in that theatre?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The position is unfolding every few hours and the reports are changing. The move out of the Israeli forces is happening far more swiftly than anyone thought likely. A great number of the safety issues depend on the attitude to the Hezbollah and what will happen with the Hezbollah in the region.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Air support is needed.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Yes, that issue was raised in the past few days and the President of the UN Security Council will make a statement today.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  A new UN mandate may be necessary urgently.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It could be. The special envoy to the region has returned to the region. He will also make a statement on the matter. We expect the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations will brief the troops later and we will then have to wait and see what happens. It is likely, as Deputy Bruton has said, that UNIFIL will ask for [994] additional troops. That seems most likely and is what I heard at lunchtime.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  They need air and seaborne support.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  On two issues of promised legislation, is the Taoiseach concerned at the disparity between growth rates in the economy and the quality of life and whether indicators, as he mentioned during Question Time, would form part of legislation under the Department of Finance?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy should ask a question on promised legislation.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Yes. Will that be part of the Department of Finance's promised legislation? While the Government is preoccupied with its own clean-ups, will it introduce the coastal zone management Bill given the threat to dump PCB toxic waste off Dundalk Bay? Will the legislation be introduced earlier than 2001 as mentioned in the list?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The second question is in order.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  On the second issue, the coastal zone management Bill will establish a new legal framework for the management of the coastal zone, replacing the Foreshore Acts. Work is ongoing on the heads of that Bill, but it will not be ready by the end of the year. It will fundamentally change the Foreshore Acts. It is important legislation but it is also complex as the Foreshore Acts date back to the last century.

On the other matter raised, there is no legislation.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Will the Taoiseach provide Government time this week to discuss matters the Minister for Foreign Affairs raised with his colleagues, the Foreign Ministers in the European Union, particularly the impending conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That matter might be discussed between the Whips.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I raise this issue because by the end of this week the conflict may have worsened and hundreds of thousands of lives may have been lost. Will the Whips consider this matter?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The matter will be left to the Whips to decide.


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