Thursday, 7 October 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Cowen: It is proposed to take No. 17a, Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2004 — Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages; and No. 2, Adoptive Leave Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements shall apply on No. 17a: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2.30 p.m. and the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Mr. Kenny: I believe this is the first occasion the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, has taken the Order of Business. He gives a different presentation from the former Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith, who was the Government line man for a number of years. I wish the Minister, Deputy Cowen, luck.
I am not opposed to the holding of alcohol-free discos. However, what compelling reasons make it necessary to take all Stages of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill today? Given the number of representations made by groups and individuals, there is a need for broader discussion on this issue. Will the Minister indicate why the Government feels it necessary to take all Stages today? Although I do not oppose the Bill, there are strong views on the broader aspects of this matter and those who wish to contribute on the Bill should have the opportunity to do so.
Mr. Rabbitte: I accept that the House may not be able to cope with a proposition as awful as the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform being wrong. However, it is the case. It appears the only reason the Bill must conclude all Stages today is to put behind him as rapidly as possible the fact that the Minister was wrong. This is a matter on which the Minister has gone on the public and written record. I read yesterday the letter he sent to my colleague, Deputy Gilmore, outlining his certitude. He went public to say that he called in the Garda Commissioner and discussed with him the propriety of consulting the Attorney General, having regard to the fact that the Attorney General has no role in this matter and surrendered it in the 1974 Act. The letter stated:
The Bill is intended to correct an error. Given that, the House deserves an opportunity to reflect on it. We have had just over 24 hours notice of the Bill, yet it is proposed that we put through all Stages, despite an informal commitment with the Chief Whip of at least 15 days notice of a Bill. It is an undesirable way of doing business. I acknowledge that even Homer nods, although there is a fair amount of nodding going on in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. We deserve an opportunity to reflect on the Bill.
There is a consolidated Intoxicating Liquor Bill on the Order Paper. Given that the Minister wanted to usher all teenagers out of pubs at 9 p.m. he obviously proposes we should play Britney Spears’ music so that we could then call it an alcohol-free disco and the teenagers would be entitled to stay. There is much confusion at the heart of this, as the Minister for Finance will acknowledge.
Mr. Sargent: Taking all Stages of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill today brings to mind my colleague’s remarks, which might have been a bit harsh, that the Minister is a binge legislator. I will not go down that road because I am sure the Minister will indicate that he is a very sober legislator. However, he must bear in mind that this is a very much more complex issue than the one this legislation attempts to address.
I am not sure whether the Minister has been to the cinema recently, but if he has he will be aware that at films rated 15PG advertising of alcohol to children under 18 years is quite scandalous. It is amazing that children are given messages about alcohol through advertising which is focused on them while at the same time they are faced with legislation that seems unrelated to that reality. The Minister needs to examine that far more comprehensively, rather than running from one crisis to another in response to whatever vested interest knocks on his door. He should step back a bit, allow this debate to take place and from that debate glean the more complex nature of the issue and act accordingly.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: In line with the other speakers I ask that the guillotine should not apply. The Second and Subsequent Stages of this Bill, which was published only on Tuesday, are to be taken in a single day. While it is a very short Bill it nevertheless fails to address many other issues in respect of which change is urgently required within the intoxicating liquor Bill. These issues have already been alluded to and include the particular requirement on parents accompanied by children to leave a hotel or licensed premises at 9 p.m. during summer vacations. Such issues could have been addressed in tandem with this measure. I do not believe there is any urgency that requires a guillotine. There are many other examples of legislation that are urgent and require to be addressed with the speed with which the Minister is attempting to deal with this Bill.
Furthermore, I am disappointed that the Minister did not contact the Sinn Féin spokesperson on this matter when he contacted other parties. The Minister should reconsider his decision to apply a guillotine. It does not assist the passage of good legislation. In this case much more should have been done.
Mr. Cowen: This is a one-section Bill. I do not believe there are many inexperienced legislators here who cannot get their heads around such a Bill fairly quickly, including the leader of the Labour Party.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide a clear statutory basis for holding alcohol-free events for persons under the age of 18 years in licensed premises, for example, night clubs, or a part of a licensed premises, for example, a function room in a hotel, at a time when intoxicating liquor is not being sold, supplied or consumed and any bar counter is securely closed. A clear statutory provision along these lines will provide certainty for voluntary bodies that organise such events and for the licensees on whose premises the events are held.
Mr. Cowen: Regarding the consolidated Bill, that is before the Cabinet and will be introduced in due course, the House can be assured that it will have plenty of time to discuss all its ramifications. The ramifications of this one-section Bill do not extend beyond 3.30 p.m.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Ahern, Noel.|
|Andrews, Barry.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Brady, Martin.|
|Brennan, Seamus.||Callanan, Joe.|
|Carty, John.||Cassidy, Donie.|
|Collins, Michael.||Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.|
|Coughlan, Mary.||Cowen, Brian.|
|Cregan, John.||Cullen, Martin.|
|Curran, John.||Davern, Noel.|
|de Valera, Síle.||Dempsey, Noel.|
|Dempsey, Tony.||Dennehy, John.|
|Devins, Jimmy.||Ellis, John.|
|Fitzpatrick, Dermot.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Gallagher, Pat The Cope.||Glennon, Jim.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Haughey, Seán.|
|Healy-Rae, Jackie.||Hoctor, Máire.|
|Jacob, Joe.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Kirk, Seamus.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||McDowell, Michael.|
|McEllistrim, Thomas.||McGuinness, John.|
|Martin, Micheál.||Moloney, John.|
|Moynihan, Donal.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Nolan, M. J.|
|Ó Cuív, Éamon.||Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.|
|O’Connor, Charlie.||O’Donnell, Liz.|
|O’Donovan, Denis.||O’Flynn, Noel.|
|O’Keeffe, Batt.||O’Malley, Fiona.|
|O’Malley, Tim.||Parlon, Tom.|
|Power, Peter.||Power, Seán.|
|Roche, Dick.||Sexton, Mae.|
|Smith, Michael.||Wallace, Dan.|
|Wilkinson, Ollie.||Wright, G. V.|
|Boyle, Dan.||Breen, James.|
|Breen, Pat.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Burton, Joan.||Connaughton, Paul.|
|Costello, Joe.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Deasy, John.||Deenihan, Jimmy.|
|Durkan, Bernard J.||English, Damien.|
|Enright, Olwyn.||Gilmore, Eamon.|
|Gogarty, Paul.||Gregory, Tony.|
|Healy, Seamus.||Higgins, Joe.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McCormack, Padraic.|
|McGrath, Finian.||McGrath, Paul.|
|McHugh, Paddy.||McManus, Liz.|
|Mitchell, Olivia.||Morgan, Arthur.|
|Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.||Murphy, Gerard.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Noonan, Michael.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Keeffe, Jim.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Pattison, Seamus.|
|Penrose, Willie.||Perry, John.|
|Quinn, Ruairí.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Ring, Michael.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Sherlock, Joe.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Twomey, Liam.|
|Timmins, Billy.||Wall, Jack.|
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: A Cheann Comhairle, on a point of order, due to the recent Cabinet reshuffle, will you confirm that every Deputy voted at his or her designated seat in the Chamber and will the vote recorded be attributed to those whose hands pressed the voting button? I am concerned that some Members are not in their designated seats and may have voted erroneously for another Member.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is aware that the sitting arrangements were changed following the Government reshuffle. There was one error in placing this morning that I am aware of and it will be corrected in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
Mr. Kenny: In view of the decision taken by the Government yesterday to dismiss Superintendent Lennon following the revelations at the Morris inquiry, did the Government discuss the payment of a lump sum and continuation of pension payments? Was that part of the decision?
Mr. Rabbitte: Will the Minister for Finance clarify the apparent announcement yesterday by the Taoiseach that he would not permit an MBO in the case of Aer Lingus? We learned later in the day that the management concern had withdrawn the MBO two days earlier. With regard to today’s publicity about the Government’s decision that there will be no further privatisation of State companies between now and the next general election, can the Minister clarify the position, specifically with regard to Aer Lingus where there is much concern about the future direction of the company?
Mr. Sargent: I wish to ask about the same legislation. The Minister said it would be dealt with in early 2005. Is there any change based on the need to clarify the Government’s position with regard to Aer Lingus? Will the dividends paid by Aer Lingus to the State, for example, be available to Aer Lingus if redevelopment of the company is required? That issue requires clarification.
Mr. J. Higgins: No. 33 relates to the ratification of the convention dealing with the financing of aircraft. The Minister might take this opportunity to state whether that will be taken in the context of Aer Lingus remaining in public ownership.
Mr. J. Higgins: Could we get clarification of whether the sounds of distant thunder from the Tánaiste yesterday were of battle receding or approaching on the issue of the ownership of the national airline?
Mr. Cowen: The Air Navigation and Transport (International Conventions) Act 2004 has been enacted. The Air Navigation and Transport (Cape Town Convention) Bill will enable Ireland to ratify the convention dealing with international financing of aircraft. The heads of that Bill were approved by the Government on 21 September and the expected publication date is next year.
Mr. Ring: About three years ago the Government deregulated the pharmacies. When will the pharmacy Bill come before the Dáil? Groups of doctors are now coming together and opening pharmacies. Does the Minister believe this is in conflict with the GMS scheme?
Mr. Sargent: The second Bill I wish to raise relates to the situation at Shannon Airport. This is probably covered under the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities (Amendment) Bill, given that the illegal war on Iraq appears to be effectively giving immunity for mass murder. Can the Minister indicate whether that legislation will protect those who have been guilty of an illegal war and whether Ireland will be one of the defendants in such a case for co-operation at Shannon Airport?
Mr. Cowen: It is not possible to indicate at this stage when that Bill will be ready. The purpose of the Bill is to address a concern about the constitutionality of Part 8 of the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967, as amended by the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities (Amendment) Act 1976.
Mr. Kenny: Despite the new faces in Government, Opposition Members are still obliged to put down notices under Standing Order 31 to draw attention to matters of importance. I congratulate the new Chief Whip on his appointment. There has long been talk about reforming the Dáil to make it more meaningful, relevant and focused. Deputies should not have to continue the practice of putting down notices under Standing Order 31, which the Ceann Comhairle inevitably rules out of order. Does the Chief Whip propose to introduce a package of reforms to make the House more relevant?
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