Order of Business.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 702 No. 2

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The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the agreement on social security between the Government of Ireland and the Government of Japan (back from committee); No. 11, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Finance Act 2004 (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2010; and No. 22, Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Bill 2009 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 10 and 11 shall be decided without debate; and Private Members’ business shall be No. 3 — Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Powers of Inquiry) Bill 2010 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, and the proceedings on Second Stage thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 February 2010.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10 and 11, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the agreement on social security between the Government of Ireland and the Government of Japan (back from committee) and motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Finance Act 2004 (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2010, without debate, agreed to?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It is not agreed.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I object to the Order of Business in its current form. I propose an amendment to it, that the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Bill 2009 be suspended at 6.30 p.m. for the purpose of allowing the Minister for Defence to make a statement and to have a short period thereafter for question time. I propose also that, on the conclusion of the Adjournment debate, the Dáil would sit for a further 30 minutes to hear statements and questions in respect of the death of the Stability and Growth Pact and the regime that Europe now intends to put in place in respect of countries in serious financial difficulties.

[245]Since 1964, some 11 Ministers have resigned from this House for one reason or another. I find it truly astonishing that two months after an issue in respect of a Cabinet Minister became public knowledge the Taoiseach did nothing about it. This is a matter of the most serious import. This is as much about the Taoiseach, his standards and what he oversees in his Cabinet as it is about anyone else. From that point of view, I find it completely unsatisfactory that in a situation where it is clear that a member of the Cabinet submitted a sworn affidavit that he subsequently said was false, he still continues in Cabinet——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Kenny, I have to advise that we dealt with the matter earlier on Taoiseach’s Question Time.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I am finished now.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Come on, a Cheann Comhairle.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  This is a serious issue.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  It is a matter that cannot be dealt with just by having a personal explanation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  There is a recognised procedure for dealing with matters such as this. A substantive motion can be introduced.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I appreciate that, a Cheann Comhairle. This matter became public on 21 December. I asked the Taoiseach today if the communications unit had brought this matter to his attention and he said he could not recall that. In the intervening two months he has known about this matter but he has done nothing about it, except possibly to ask the Minister to make a statement this evening. It is unsatisfactory to have the Minister give a personal explanation, to which he is fully entitled, and as is his right, without having questions asked about the seriousness of what is involved. This is not just an ordinary citizen. This is a person who has been elected for many years as a diligent Deputy by his constituency and who was appointed by the Taoiseach to the Cabinet. He is the holder of a Cabinet seal of office. He has a serious issue to answer——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Subsequent to the statement, the Deputy can introduce a substantive motion——

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——and from that point of view the Taoiseach has failed to do anything for the past two months.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  ——rather than try to circumvent that arrangement now.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I object to the Order of Business being taken in this fashion. It is not satisfactory that a personal explanation can be considered sufficient in respect of a matter that is as serious and fundamentally important as this.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I understand from the replies given by the Taoiseach during Question Time that it is intended the Minister for Defence will make a statement later this evening on this issue. I also understand that it is not intended that there would be any opportunity for questions to be put to the Minister for Defence or for any statements to be made in response to his statement to the House. That is not an acceptable arrangement for dealing with this [246]matter. For that reason, the Labour Party is opposed to the Order of Business the Taoiseach has put before us.

I also draw the Taoiseach’s attention to the precedent that has already been established for dealing with statements from Ministers who find themselves in controversy of this kind. On 10 September——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I advise Deputy Gilmore that the statement will be an explanation.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  How do you know that?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Subsequent to the explanation, if Deputy Gilmore feels it is necessary to bring forward a motion to deal with the matter on the floor of the House, he is perfectly entitled to do it.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  No.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  It is called perspicacity.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I am not talking about the statement, a Cheann Comhairle. I have not heard the statement and I do not intend to talk about it until I have heard it. What I am talking about is the Order of Business the Taoiseach has put before us for today. I am explaining to you why I am opposing the Order of Business the Taoiseach has put before us. The reason I am opposing it is because there is a precedent for dealing with statements from Ministers in these types of controversial circumstances. The precedent was established on 10 September 1997 when former Minister, Ray Burke, made a statement to the House.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  We know where that finished.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  On that occasion the Government proposed a formula to the House. It was part of the Order of Business. The formula proposed was that a personal statement would be made by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, which would not exceed 20 minutes, “after which the Minister shall take questions”. Then there was a provision by which the questions would be brought to a conclusion.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Draw a line in the sand.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The case I am making is that the Taoiseach should make a similar provision on today’s Order of Business. There should be a proposal that the Minister for Defence makes a statement and takes questions for a time. Perhaps, having heard all of that, we might not have any need for the motion the Ceann Comhairle is inviting us all to table about the Minister.

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  Some chance of that.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  It is unlikely.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  We might not be disposed at all to table a motion about him but we would like to hear what he has to say and to have the opportunity of putting questions to him. The House should be given that opportunity but an arrangement whereby the Minister comes in at some hour later tonight, makes a statement and then disappears without question or comment from anybody is not an acceptable way of dealing with this matter.

[247]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I have explained the procedure we will adopt in this regard. Having heard the statement this evening, if Members feel it is necessary to proceed with a substantive motion, the provision is there to do it and it will be facilitated.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Whatever about the statement to be heard, the facts themselves are damning. A Cabinet Minister made a sworn affidavit to the High Court——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy——

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I will have the opportunity to speak as others have already spoken.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I cannot allow the Deputy to make derogatory remarks across the floor.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I am not making derogatory remarks; I am stating the facts.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I have a duty, as Chair of this Assembly, to protect the standards in this House. I protect not alone Ministers but individual Deputies as well.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  The Ceann Comhairle is allowed to protect Fianna Fáil

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I am making no false accusation about anybody. I am recording what we know to be the case. A Cabinet Minister misled the High Court with a sworn affidavit falsely claiming that he did not make a grossly defamatory statement against an individual citizen who was then a candidate in the local government elections.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy is anticipating what will be said in the statement this evening.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  He is stating facts.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  There will be statements for an hour or an hour and a half.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  That is what happened.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I ask the Deputy to refrain from making these allegations.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It is not an allegation. The Minister subsequently withdrew the affidavit and, indeed, admitted the defamation. He did this while a Cabinet Minister. This was not a case between two members of the public, as the Taoiseach would have——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  If the Deputy wishes to pursue this matter, he can table the motion to deal with it, subsequent to the statement this evening. That is the proper procedure for dealing with it and this is the procedure that will be before the House.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  This is not, as the Taoiseach would have had us believe earlier this afternoon, a matter between two private citizens.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I cannot allow the Deputy to cast aspersions across the floor against individual Members and I will not allow it.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  The Minister swore the affidavit.

[248]Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  This action was taken and performed by a sitting member of the Cabinet. Make no mistake about it. This is a serious matter and, as others have said, the facilitation of a statement alone is totally inadequate. The right of Members to properly question the Minister is something that should be upheld by the Taoiseach and insisted upon by the Ceann Comhairle. Furthermore, based on the facts that we know——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I have advised the House several times as to how we will proceed if necessary.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——the Minister should either take the appropriate action of standing down or the Taoiseach take the action of standing him down.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  That could not be hard.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  On the same matter, I have had discussions with the Ceann Comhairle’s office——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  There can only be one Fine Gael speaker on the proposal and the leader of the Deputy’s party has spoken. He will have ample opportunity at a later time to raise these matters. I am not allowing the Deputy.

Deputies:  He is raising a point of order.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  On a point of order, this is a carefully contrived whitewash and I hope the Ceann Comhairle’s office is not complicit in this because he has not——

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Withdraw that remark.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I ask Deputy Flanagan to withdraw that remark or leave the House.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I said I hoped that——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I ask Deputy Flanagan to withdraw that remark or leave the House.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I said I hoped the Ceann Comhairle’s office was not——

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  We all hope that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I ask Deputy Flanagan to withdraw that remark or leave the House.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Should we hope that?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Flanagan is casting an aspersion on the Chair. I ask him to resume his seat and to withdraw that remark immediately.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  He did not make any accusation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Will Deputy Flanagan withdraw the remark?

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  He expressed a hope.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Flanagan will leave the House.

Deputies:  For what?

[249]Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  He expressed a hope.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I require an explanation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy will leave the House.

  5 o’clock

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  The Ceann Comhairle failed to inform the House about the personal explanation the Minister for Defence is about to embark on this evening. This is nothing short of a whitewash because the personal explanation to which the Ceann Comhairle refers, according to Standing Order 44(2), is “An explanation made under this Standing Order shall be brief, non-argumentative and strictly personal and shall not be such as would cause debate or give rise to further explanations”. That is a whitewash. I was in contact with the Ceann Comhairle’s office yesterday evening and this morning. The Ceann Comhairle is refusing to allow a debate on this issue.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  That is shameful.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy has cast an aspersion on the Chair in the wrong and improperly. I am naming him and I ask him to leave the House. I propose that he be suspended from the House.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  The Ceann Comhairle is in the House a long time. Former Taoiseach Haughey sacked a Minister for lying. The standard we are asking from these benches is less——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy will be suspended from the House. He should resume his seat or leave the House.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  The Deputy cast no aspersion on the Chair. That is outrageous. The Deputy cast no aspersion on the Ceann Comhairle’s office.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Fine Gael is returning to type going for the man.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I said I hoped that the Ceann Comhairle’s office would treat this matter in the manner——


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