Friday, 20 December 1974
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: It is proposed to take business in the following order: No. 2 and No. 1. It is proposed that the Minister should be called at 4.30 p.m. to conclude the debate of the Appropriation Bill.
Mrs. Robinson: I should like to register a very strong protest at the way in which the Seanad is being treated in this matter. The Appropriation Bill comes before us today for Second Reading. It appears that the Seanad will be allowed six hours to debate this Bill, which we all regard as the most important legislation in the year. We do not have an opportunity of debating the Estimates one by one as they come along. How can Senators address themselves seriously to a discussion on this Bill when they have a maximum of six hours? Indeed, we have another motion to take within that six hours, but I assume it will not take very long.
Are we ever going to protest at the way in which we are treated? Are we ever going to take ourselves seriously? Are we really going to try to play an important part in the so-called democratic process in this country? I do not think I am registering an unnecessary protest. It is time that we stood out for this.
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Is the Senator suggesting a time limit? If so it would probably be well received but I would prefer that it be done by arrangement within the groups rather than by trying to make an order of the House on it.
Mr. Killilea: An Appropriation Bill is an important Bill and we are very interested in it. There is no point in us walking out of the Chamber. That does not solve our problem. Six-and-a-half hours is a very short time. As a rural Senator there are a lot of things I would like to say and possibly will not get time to say them. I think 4.30 does not allow enough time. I would suggest, perhaps, 6.30.
Mr. Yeats: I sympathise with the point made by Senator Killilea and indeed by Senator Robinson. I would be entirely against any kind of time limit on speeches on a matter of this kind. I think it would be wrong. However, one ought to make the point that this is an exceptional year. This, thank goodness, is the last time we will receive the Appropriation Bill in this way, just before Christmas. In another three weeks there will be the annual budget and both Houses of the Oireachtas will be discussing financial business, at considerable length, no doubt. This is an exceptional occasion and for that reason it is pointless unduly to drag out a Bill of this kind because it is a purely temporary and interim affair. That is the reason why we agreed to finish this afternoon.
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I would like to thank Senator Yeats because I think he has put the matter in its proper prospective. Senator Lenihan and myself and others who are concerned with trying to arrange the matter were aware of the facts that Senator Yeats has mentioned. We are in an exceptional situation. He has put it in its proper prospective as regards the question of a time limit. It should be possible for Senators to discipline themselves in order to allow others to make their contributions. I am sure there will be no difficulty about it.
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