Tuesday, 23 May 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: 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.
Mr. 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. 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: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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. 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
An Ceann Comhairle: 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.
Mr. J. 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?
Mr. J. Bruton: I appreciate that, but I believe the debate would be better informed if we had  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: 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.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: 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. 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—
Mr. 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?
Mr. G. 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?
Mr. 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. 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  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. J. 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?
The Taoiseach: 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  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. J. 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: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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  additional troops. That seems most likely and is what I heard at lunchtime.
Mr. 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?
Mr. 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?
The Taoiseach: 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.
Mr. M. 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?
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