Wednesday, 27 October 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 13, motion re statement of expenditure for the Houses of the Oireachtas, and No. 3, the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill 2004 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and that business shall be interrupted on the adjournment of Private Members’ business; No. 13 shall be decided without debate; Private Members’ business shall be No. 33, motion re Tallaght west childhood development initiative, to be taken at 7 p.m. or on the conclusion of the opening speeches on No. 3, whichever is the later; and that debate shall also take place tomorrow, 28 October 2004, directly following the Order of Business and shall be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are three proposals before the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal to deal with No. 13, motion re statement of expenditure for the Houses of the Oireachtas, without debate agreed?
Mr. Kenny: Is the Taoiseach happy that the commission established to run the matters of the Houses of the Oireachtas is independent? I understand money was allocated to that commission and that it has made a number of proposals which cannot be adhered to. Is the Taoiseach happy that the commission is independent?
Mr. Kenny: In light of the situation that has arisen between the European Commission and the European Parliament wherein José Manuel Durão Barroso has delayed matters in so far as the appointment of commissioners is concerned — I do not wish to attach any blame to the Taoiseach for nominating José Manuel Durão Barroso, who is a member of our grouping within the European Parliament——
Mr. Kenny: ——perhaps it might be appropriate, given we normally have a debate after a Heads of Government meeting, for us to state our views on the matter next week before the Taoiseach and his colleagues meet as Heads of Government. Will the Taoiseach assent?
Mr. Rabbitte: I wish to speak on the same matter. Does the Taoiseach want to say anything to the House about this development today? Will he facilitate a debate on the matter? Will he facilitate Mr. McCreevy if he comes back? What is the Taoiseach’s understanding?
Mr. Rabbitte: Will the same President of the Commission largely put forward the same Commissioners for the same portfolios or what is the Taoiseach’s stated knowledge about it? Will he concede a debate next week?
Mr. Sargent: Is it the case that if Pádraig Flynn, having been a commissioner, was in this position he would have had even more primitive views than Commissioner Buttiglione, Silvio Berlusconi’s nominee? Will the Taoiseach offer any advice to Silvio Berlusconi in that context, given that he would have some experience of dealing with former Commissioner Pádraig Flynn?
The Taoiseach: With the deferral of the vote on the new Commission today we have entered uncharted territory. The President designate of the Commission has indicated he intends to consult the European Parliament, presumably through the Council of Presidents, and the Council before a vote is held on the new Commission. Needless to say I regret it is not possible to complete the appointment of the new Commission as planned. The Government will support Commission President designate Barossa in his efforts to find a resolution to the impasse. It is not clear how long the consultations will take. The position is that the present Commission under President Prodi will continue in office to allow the consultations take place.
There is an issue only about one nomination, the Italian nomination, the cCommissioner designated for freedom, justice and security. On the issue raised last week we have to wait and see what can be worked out. It is clear that had the vote taken place today, it would have been lost. We have to wait and see what is the best way of resolving the issue as quickly as possible. Obviously, the former Minister, Mr. McCreevy, will remain the Irish nominee for Commissioner.
Mr. Kenny: He has been appointed as EU ambassador to Washington and has given outstanding service over a long period to the people of Meath and to this country. We should note this is his last day in attendance here in the Chamber.
The Taoiseach: I know we are slightly out of order but, in fairness, Deputy John Bruton has been a Member for 35 years, having served as Taoiseach, Minister, Leader of the Opposition and in an enormous number of posts. He has served the country and his party extremely well. I thank him for the work he did during all those years but particularly for the work he did on the EU constitution as vice-president of the European Convention, which was enormously helpful in bringing the work through and also in helping the Irish Presidency.
I have been dealing directly with Deputy Bruton since both of us were Leader of the House, I in Oopposition and he in Ggovernment, which is a long time ago. His courtesy has always been outstanding and I wish him well in Washington.
Mr. Rabbitte: I join in the words of tribute to Deputy John Bruton. I had the pleasure of working under his rule for a short time and I greatly enjoyed it. We normally only say words like this when one is dead. It is dangerous territory to be required to pay such a tribute when the victim can answer back. His record in the House is second to none. Having been elected in 1969, he has always been a cerebral politician who has thought deeply about many of the issues that confront our country and our people. If one does not always agree with him, it does not mean one cannot admire the way in which he discharged his role in the House. I am sorry to see him go and I wish him well in his new post.
Mr. Sargent: I too wish Deputy John Bruton every success in his new position in the United States on behalf of the European Union. Deputy Bruton will always be remembered here as “an ideas man”, as he has been often characterised. He will certainly need a few of those ideas in bringing together some of the relations between the US and Europe. In terms of global issues that Deputy Bruton has often discussed here, this is his opportunity to influence climate change, given that he will be in a pivotal role. I trust he will be mindful of that in making sure there is a consensus that ensures long time viability and sustainability for the American people, Europeans and everybody else who depends on it.
Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey): I could not let the opportunity pass without wishing my constituency colleague and adversary all the best and bon voyage. If he is as assiduous in Washington in looking after the affairs of Europe as he was in Meath in looking after the affairs of his constituents, Europe will be well served. I wish him well in Washington.
Mr. J. Bruton: I reassure the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, that I have bought a return ticket. How pleased I am to say these few words on the occasion when you, a Cheann Comhairle, are in the chair because you are somebody whom I greatly admired throughout your political life and mine and I think you know that, Sir. I want also to thank my party leader, Deputy Kenny, for his kind remarks and the kindness he has shown to me since he became leader of the party and long before.
I am grateful to the Taoiseach for the support he has shown me, particularly in recent times and while I was in the European Convention. I think I am the only person who has had the privilege of negotiating with the Taoiseach when he was on the flat of his back in bed. I remember going out to visit him in his house when he was Whip of the main Opposition party to negotiate Dáil reform. He had a problem with his back and he was literally on the flat of it. I had to negotiate with him in a horizontal position as they might say but there was no jogging involved. The negotiation, like all occasions of this kind, was slow but successful.
I thank Deputy Rabbitte. I did not realise he disagreed with me about anything. I now discover that he did but he had a great way of concealing it when it mattered. I should say to Deputy Sargent that I hope the results of the flood relief works in the Tolka basin, which were undertaken with such assiduity by various Deputies will not result in County Meath water flooding Deputy Gregory’s and the Taoiseach’s constituency because of the rapid off-flow of the water from the Tolka basin. I hope we will be able to solve all of that problem in Washington and that there will be no more climate problems, at least not for the next four years. It can rain as much as it likes after that. As Deputy Rabbitte aptly remarked, it is most unusual for one to read one’s own obituary notice. I have not yet decided whether I will speak later tonight or what I will say if I do, but I thank the House.
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