Wednesday, 5 May 1971
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Eoin Ryan: May I mention Motion No. 22 on the Order of Business which was referred to by Senator O'Higgins on the Order of Business? The Leader of the House has asked me to say that it is not proposed to have this motion taken during this week, that is today or tomorrow.
Mr. O'Higgins: Before we resume the Business of the House, the Chair will recall that on the Order of Business I raised the question of Motion No. 22 dealing with the Employment Period Order. I moved an amendment to the Order of Business but the Leader of the House requested that the matter might be mentioned after tea. I am raising it now for that reason.
Mr. O'Higgins: I was not here because I was at another meeting, but I understand that the Leader of the House specifically requested that it should be raised after the tea break. I think it is right to raise it now. This is being done by agreement of the House. That was my understanding of the position of the Order of Business. I understand from Senator Brugha now that it is not proposed to take it today. Can there be a definite assurance given that it will be taken next week?
Mr. O'Higgins: This seems to me to be most unsatisfactory. This House has a statutory right to seek the repeal of this order. It is an order that is affecting the livelihood of many thousands of people in the country. They are suffering under it at the moment. We are asking for an opportunity to remedy that position by annulling the order in the House. I think the Government should afford us that opportunity. I do not know if I would be in order—I will do it if I am in order —in proposing the suspension of Standing Orders to have the motion discussed now.
Provided that in the cases of necessity, of which the Cathaoirleach shall be the judge, any such Order or Orders may, with the unanimous consent of the Seanad, be suspended upon a motion made without notice.
Mr. O'Higgins: This seems to me to be the Standing Order which I would assume deliberately gives discretion to the Chair for the protection of the rights of the Members of the Seanad and the rights of the public, in cases of necessity. I have briefly put the point of view that there are many thousands of people whose livelihoods are affected by this order. We have a statutory right to decide whether that state of affairs should continue. This is such an obvious case of necessity that the Chair should exercise his discretion in favour of enabling Standing Orders to be suspended.
An Cathaoirleach: The discretion is that in cases of necessity, of which the Cathaoirleach shall be the judge. Standing Orders may be suspended provided there is unanimous consent of the Seanad. The Chair has given its  consent for this motion to be put. In the absence, however, of the unanimous consent of the Seanad, the Chair is bound to say that the motion cannot be carried.
Mr. Boland: On the few occasions prior to this when there has been some querying of the Order of Business at the commencement of the Business of the Day, and when that necessitated further discussion later in the day on what the Business of the Seanad should be for the remainder of that day or for the subsequent day, I would suggest that that normally is taken as being an extension of the discussion on the Order of Business. Unless I am greatly mistaken, on the few occasions when, at this hour, a discussion has arisen as to business for the remainder of the day, it has always been titled in the official record of the House as “Order of Business”. That being so, we would now be discussing the Order of Business for the day and I would suggest that the Order of Business be varied by the inclusion of item No. 22 in the Order of Business for the remainder of the day.
An Cathaoirleach: The situation is not as stated by Senator Boland. The situation is that a motion for the Order of Business was agreed to by the House when we sat this afternoon. That order stands. No further motion can be moved. The House did agree, however, that the question of this specific item could be raised at this time. It has now been raised and dealt with and no further motion regarding the Order of Business can be moved.
Mr. Boland: With the greatest respect, surely this discussion which has just taken place will appear in the official record of the House under the heading “Order of Business”. Any Member of this House who disagrees with the Order of Business is entitled to move an amendment to that Order of Business. What we did when we reconvened after the tea break was  to discuss once again the Order of Business. Might I also respectfully point out to you that the Order of Business was agreed at the commencement of the day on the undertaking of the Leader of the House that he would be present here at 7.30 p.m. to tell us if Item No. 22 could be debated today. That being so, the item of Order of Business was not concluded some time after 3 o'clock but was extended also to take place after 7.30 p.m. today. I suggest that what we are discussing now is the Order of Business of this House, and this House, as the Chair so often rightly points out to us, is the one which decides what the Order of Business should be.
An Cathaoirleach: Yes, but subject to Standing Orders. The situation is as I have stated, that the Order of Business was decided by the House by means of a motion. The Chair has allowed perhaps an unduly wide discussion on this matter and I now call upon Senator FitzGerald to continue his speech on amendment No. 33 of the Unit Trusts Bill, 1970.
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Would you permit me to address you on the last topic that has been under discussion, because the consensus of this party came into this House today with the desire to debate this motion today because of the importance of it for the lives of many people in this country? We were prepared to vote against the Order of Business if the Order of Business proposed by the Leader of the House did not contain this item. This party abstained from voting against the Order of Business, which is provisionally put before us, on the undertaking of the Leader of the House that this matter would be raised. His party's agreement to debating this would ensure a real debate and a real vote. It seems to be that the Chair, without giving full consideration to it, is putting the reputation of the Leader of the House in jeopardy if he, by his ruling today, in effect has put the Leader of the House in the position of securing by way of an undertaking a situation which technically under the rules of the House enables the  Chairman to rule this debate out of order and to prevent this party and other Members on this side who want to do so, voting against this Order of Business as a protest against the deplorable method of excluding this.
An Cathaoirleach: As far as the Chair is concerned a motion was put and the House decided. So far as the Chair and the Standing Orders are concerned, that is the Order of Business fixed for today. The Chair has no power to vary the decision already taken.
Mr. Russell: I think you are acting rightly and within the Rules of the Standing Orders, but I submit to you that on the basis of that argument the Order of Business on any day could remain unchallenged if the Leader of the House suggested that he would come back after 7 o'clock to give the House his views on whether a certain motion would be taken. That would be a complete denigration of the right of the Opposition to divide on the Order of Business. It is a form of evasion. I am not suggesting that you are a party to it. If that was to be the case we could have divided this afternoon on the Order of Business.
Mr. Boland: The Order of Business was only agreed subject to the undertaking of the Leader of the House that there would be further discussion on the Order of Business at 7.30. That being so, and bearing in mind—I believe I am right in this—that the title of this discussion in the official record of the House will be “Order of Business”, and bearing in mind that we accepted the Order of Business tentatively, subject to our further discussing it at 7.30 p.m., I would respectfully suggest to you that we are now entitled to move an amendment to the Order of Business so as to allow for the discussion of Item No. 22 and, if  necessary, to challenge a division on that amendment.
Mr. O'Higgins: In fairness both to the Chair and to House—I am open to correction on this—my recollection is that when the Leader of the House intervened with his suggestion of raising this matter after tea, I stated that on that basis we would withdraw the amendment. I can see the dilemma of the Chair. I make no suggestion whatever that the Chair is acting in any way harshly or unfairly or improperly. I am quite sure that the Chair is not doing any of these things and finds itself in the dilemma that Standard Orders are there. The Chair finds that he must insist on the rigid application of the Standing Orders if there is no inclination from the Government benches to concede the point we are making. However, in fairness to Members on this side of the House, the Chair will agree that if my recollection of the matter is correct, what we should be doing now is taking a decision on the amendment which was withdrawn on the basis of the suggestion made by the Leader of the House. I did make it clear at that time that it was on that basis, and only on that basis, that the amendment was withdrawn.
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: I should like wholeheartedly to agree with what my colleague, Senator O'Higgins, has said about your own impartiality which does not arise even. Indeed, as you have stated the matter to us, you seem to be in a dilemma. I am sure you would be as concerned as anyone in this House to get rid of any sense of injustice having been done to anybody in this House, or to the people whom we represent.
I suggest that what we decided today was the Order of Business, and that the Order of Business was to take the following items: item No. 3, which a number of people will agree has taken too long, item No. 4 and item No. 5 subject to our hearing from the Leader of the House at 7.30 p.m., when the tea break was over, what was his attitude to including in the Order of Business for today or tomorrow motion No. 22. I submit that we did not at that time determine anything other than that at 7.30 p.m. the Leader of the House would be here and would tell us what were his views on that motion. When he had done so, this party would decide if we were prepared to support that proposed Order of Business.
I suggest to the Chair that the motion for the Order of Business was not passed this afternoon, that the motion for the Order of Business that was passed this afternoon was the following: items Nos. 3, 4 and 5, subject to an intervention by the Leader of the House with regard to motion No. 22. It is open to the Opposition now and to us as a party, in the absence of the Leader of the House, to vote against that motion. Otherwise, we will feel a sense of injustice with regard to the whole affair, which would probably be as unfair to the Fianna Fáil Party as it would be to us. I do not like to think that this was intended, that the matter be left to me to clarify in the manner that I hope I have——
Mr. Boland: In all fairness, what this really amounts to now, as far as I am concerned, is that the Leader of the House has either accidentally or deliberately misled the House. If we are to accept the sort of ruling we are getting from you—and I feel you have been placed in an impossible position —never again can we take the word of the Leader of the House on any undertaking which he gives us. Surely the matter could be helped in some way if some of those sitting on the Government benches were to intervene and at least give some assurance as to when this urgent debate might take place. It is all very well for Senators there to sit complacently, but while we are speaking there are people in rural Ireland starving and deprived because of the nature of this order.
An Cathaoirleach: The merits of item No. 22 may not be discussed. I shall conclude this discussion by saying again that the Order of Business was put and agreed to this afternoon. There must be some finality in these matters. We could not carry out our business except on the basis that the Order of Business is fixed at the start of the day and that this is then adhered to. The only suggestion I can make is that tomorrow is another day and a motion on the Order of Business would then be in order. At the moment this discussion is not in order. There is nothing before the House——
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: I suggest he was in order, because the resolution that we made this morning provided for him to come here and tell us what were the items to be debated today. He did his duty, he did tell us. This  is not satisfactory to us and we are not satisfied with the Order of Business for today. We oppose the Order of Business for today.
Mr. O'Higgins: We are being put in the position that the only effective protest we can make—we are not allowed by vote or to say what we think of this—is to quit this Chamber for today. I do not want to do that: that kind of conduct does not enhance the dignity of the House. However, I feel that that is the only effective protest we can make.
Ruairí Brugha: All I said was that Senator Ryan had said before the adjournment that his instructions were that it would not be possible to take this matter this week. This side of the House has no objection but we will not argue with the Chair on taking a vote. All that has been said is that Senator Ryan's instructions are that we are not in a position to take this matter this week.
An Cathaoirleach: The Chair is saying that this discussion is now ended. We cannot continue indefinitely to discuss this question. There is nothing before the House. The item that has been ordered now is the Unit Trusts Bill: Report Stage. I am calling on Senator Alexis FitzGerald to continue speaking on amendment No. 33.
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