Friday, 6 July 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I wish to take this opportunity of wishing the Ceann Comhairle and the staff of the House an enjoyable break. I sincerely hope everyone is in a position to take some form of holiday during the recess because it has been a long session. I thank in particular those members of staff who have spent many long hours here into the night. I express the wish that my colleagues in the House will have a good break and that they too will get the opportunity  to take a holiday. I am aware the committees of the House will be sitting throughout July and September. It is true that “rust never sleeps”. I also express the wish that the media will have a pleasant and enjoyable summer and that they will obtain a break and I thank them for their co-operation.
When the House resumes in October, this Government will be the longest serving and most successful Government since the Second World War. That illustrates the Government never was, is not now and will not be a forest of palms sprouting olives.
I join with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in expressing my good wishes to the Ceann Comhairle, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and the staff of the House for a very happy and well deserved summer break as it has been a very long session. I wish to take this opportunity of thanking you, a Cheann Comhairle, and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for running a very orderly House and being courteous to all of us who I am sure at times tried your patience. I thank the staff of the House, including the staff here who serve parliament and democracy. I thank the wider staff of the House, including the staff in the restaurants, the ushers, staff throughout the House and the staff assigned to the political parties, including secretarial staff and so on. Everyone has had a very long session and worked very hard. Sometimes those who work the hardest get the lowest profile and I would like to acknowledge their work. I am conscious of the fact that the committees of the House will be going ahead in July and September. Many of our colleagues will be engaged in those and the staff of the House will also be engaged in servicing the committees. Therefore, it is not as if we are going out when the school bell rings today not to be seen again until the school bell rings again on 3 October. There is a lot of work being done.
As we stand here today we hope the Northern Ireland talks will be successful. I hope the negotiating position has been re-established and I intend to approach this as I approach other matters. I am optimistic. I think the parties on all sides, even though they contend and debate, are committed to peace, the peace process and the successful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. I believe all the pro-Agreement parties are bona fide in their attempts to reach a resolution and I hope that resolution can be reached with the help of the two sovereign Governments in the next two weeks or so. This is very important to all of us because, while the plenary session of the House may close down, politics goes on. The politics of Northern Ireland seem to dominate the summer and I hope before we get into the real difficult times that a resolution to  outstanding problems can be arrived at in Northern Ireland.
By next year I hope I will be wishing everyone well from the seat in which the Minister is now sitting. He spoke about this Administration being the longest since the Second World War; it certainly feels like that. Without being facetious, anyone who looks at the health services would think there are almost as many casualties. It is as if the Minister was extricating himself from Stalingrad. I have no doubt that when the summer passes and if it is decided to have an election in October we will be building on our success in South Tipperary and that the electorate will be building on the message they sent from South Tipperary. If the Government decides to go on longer, then it will certainly be the longest Administration since the Second World War and it will be like the retreat from Stalingrad or, to go back to a previous age, the retreat from Moscow. I do not think there is any Napoleon currently on the Minister's side to pull things back together. I wish the Administration well. It has been a long session and they need the rest. We will be working throughout the summer but I hope Members on the Government side enjoy the break.
Mr. Howlin: I join with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Leader of the Fine Gael Party at the end of this plenary session in wishing you, a Cheann Comhairle, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Clerk of the Dáil, the Assistant Clerk and staff, the ushers, the full staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas, the domestic staff and all those who facilitate our work here, including the restaurant staff, the Garda Síochána and everyone who has been involved in making this session work, some rest in the weeks to come.
I am very pleased the Minister and the Leader of the Fine Gael Party mentioned that the committees will be meeting in July and September. I expect to be back here next Tuesday, not at the normal time of 2.30 p.m. but at 11 a.m. for the beginning of oral hearings on the European Convention on Human Rights Bill. The committee of which I am a member will sit on Thursday next week and we also have business on Wednesday. The members of the justice committee have full business with which to deal next week and the week after which will occupy the committee rooms of this House and on occasion over the next number of weeks other venues in the city. I hope the Fourth Estate, which I also acknowledge and thank for their coverage of the last plenary session, will now refocus their gaze to that neglected section of the House, the committees, which do a lot of work and are rarely reflected in any significant media coverage. Colleagues who tabled hundreds of amendments and argued them for weeks on end got no coverage or acknowledgment for that work. The reconstitution of the work of the House through the committees is  something we need to work on, not just in its workings and resources but the way in which we present it to the public at large.
I look forward to some break in August and I wish my colleagues throughout the House a restful few weeks during August. I also join with Deputy Noonan in wishing the Executive well because, whatever battles we fight here, the Government of Ireland is the elected Government by the people through this House and they bat on all our behalf.
I wish the Government, particularly the Taoiseach, every success in the very challenging discussions which will begin in England next week. There seems to be a permanent crisis pertaining to Northern Ireland. Every Member of the House wants the unresolved intricacies of the Good Friday Agreement brought to a satisfactory conclusion so that the normal politics of this island, North and South, involves improving the living standards and the lot of every citizen and not the preservation of peace as a fundamental issue.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his courtesy. The House may not return on 3 October because more than one straw in the wind suggests the good people of the State may have an opportunity to exercise their democratic right to pass judgment on the Administration before we meet in plenary session again.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): The business on the last plenary sitting day of this session is a fitting tribute to the past four years of Government. Cynical legislation, in the form of the Waste Management (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, was rushed through today which will remove a significant plank of local democracy. The business of the past three weeks has involved the cynical pushing through of legislation without any proper scrutiny because of a lack of time. I pay tribute to my staff colleagues but also to the staff of the House who have been put under unreasonable pressure by the incredible number of late sittings.
I hope that over the summer the country will have time to reflect on four years of this Government and some of the disastrous decisions that have been taken. Its most shameful monument will be the privatisation of public assets over the past four years. Vital resources, such as telecom operations and the Irish National Petroleum Corporation, have been handed over to multinational companies. No publicly owned resource is safe from the Government which plans to privatise Aer Lingus. The Government should keep its hand off Aer Lingus because it will face a massive campaign of opposition from the staff and other people against the privatisation of the national airline.
The rejection of the Nice treaty in the ballot box showed that the Government has lost any confidence the people might have had in it. Rather than writing itself into the history books  as the longest serving Administration since World War II, if it returns in October, the Government should write itself out of office by going to the country in September and giving the people their say on some of its disastrous acts.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I join other speakers in wishing the Ceann Comhairle, the staff in his office and the staff who administer the work of the House a warm and pleasant summer break. I extend this wish in particular to the staff of the Bills office who have been through a difficult period in the preparation of a myriad of legislation and the many amendments tabled by Members dealing with various Bills on Committee Stage. I wish the Minister, his colleagues and the other party representatives a pleasant summer break.
I join in the expressed hope of other colleagues  that there will be progress in the most important matter, on which I hope all political opinion will concentrate, of the realisation of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the establishment of peace, progress and prosperity as the reward for our collective efforts on this island.
An Ceann Comhairle: On my behalf and on behalf of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I thank the Members for their good wishes. I wish all Members well in their parliamentary duties on committees over the next few weeks and in fulfilling their obligations to their constituents which they will actively pursue over the next couple of months. I hope to see you all again on 3 October.
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