Wednesday, 13 June 1979
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. E. Ryan: The only item we can discuss today is item No. 2 on the Order Paper. Unfortunately even that cannot proceed at the moment because the Minister concerned is about to answer Questions in the Dáil. I have to propose that the Seanad adjourn until 3 o'clock.
Mr. Cooney: I can accept that the Minister has to answer Questions and that that must get precedence but I must protest that one of the Houses of Parliament has been summoned here to do no business, in effect. It is embarrassing for the Leader of the House and his colleagues to be put in that position and obviously it is not their fault but the fault of the Government. It is another indication  of the demoralisation of the present administration and their incompetence to rescue themselves out of their own predicament that they have caused one of the Houses of the Oireachtas to be summoned here and have no business for it to deal with. It is a terrible state of affairs. It is making a mockery of Parliament and it is bringing the whole process into disrepute.
Mrs. Robinson: I appreciate the difficulties the House is in at the moment, and that it is preferable that we adjourn to a certain date rather than adjourn sine die as has been the custom when the Government were unsure of the business that could be ordered. I have some sympathy for the Leader of the House in that the House adjourned until today from its last sitting a fortnight ago. I asked the Leader of the House, since there was virtually no Government business for this afternoon, that the motion in the names of Senator Justin Keating and myself on the proposed legal aid scheme that the Government were going to introduce be taken this afternoon and I understand that the Leader was sympathetic to my request. I was given some understanding that it was likely that it would be taken so I am surprised that the Leader of the House ordered only item No. 2 for 3 o'clock this afternoon. The importance of the motion on the Order Paper in relation to legal aid is that it deals with the vital point in principle——
Mrs. Robinson: I assure the Cathaoirleach that I do not intend to go into the merits of it. I am trying to explain why we are most anxious to have a debate on this motion before the House rises, preferably today, but if not then at the earliest opportunity, certainly either tomorrow or next week. There is a very important issue in principle arising from the proposal on legal aid. It does not seem to include any provision for legislation and we are adamant that any legal aid scheme must be based on legislation.
Mrs. Robinson: I appreciate that but there is on the Order Paper a motion which is extremely important in its substance and extremely urgent in its timing. Yet, it looks as if the House will adjourn this afternoon after dealing with only one minor item of business that will not take up much of the time of the House. Can this motion be taken this afternoon? The Leader of the House has not given any indication of the position since I was speaking to him earlier today when I was reasonably optimistic that it would be taken today. I also consulted some of my Senator colleagues about the possibility of this motion being taken so that they would not be taken by surprise on it. If it cannot be taken today then what is the earliest date on which this motion can be taken for discussion?
Mr. Molony: I support all that Senator Robinson has said. Senator Cooney and myself have had motion No. 16 in relation to legal aid on the Order Paper for some considerable time now. The proposal by the Government to introduce a system of legal aid has now rather dated that motion and I would like to withdraw motion No. 16 and support Senator Robinson's motion. I ask that if at all possible it should be taken today. I agree that it is a matter of considerable urgency. There are very fundamental points of principle involved in this. I also agree very strongly with Senator Cooney about many of us from the country being brought to Dublin today, having regard to the petrol crisis, to find that there is just no business to be taken.
Professor Murphy: I support strongly the protest made by Senators at what can only be called the most woeful ineptitude on the part of the Government. One does not want to rub salt in their wounds—they may be slightly disorientated at the moment—but if one considers the fact that the postal strike has cut us provincials off from what is happening here, the difficulties are obvious enough. It is difficult enough in the ordinary  way for anyone coming from the country to have some idea of what is happening in regard to the Order of Business but the postal strike has compounded that difficulty. I would have thought that even on short notice the Leader of the House might have suggested that we proceed to discuss, apart from the minor item which he has indicated to us, quite a number of the motions on the Order Paper, many of which are still very much ad rem and two of which, Nos. 14 and 17, stand in my name.
Mr. O'Toole: This is an accommodation request from the Leader of the House because of the small amount of business coming through and because of Ministers not being in a position to be here today. There is no question of us licking our wounds. I travelled many more miles than some of the Senators who are protesting here today. I am sure Senator Cooney, the leader of Fine Gael here, will realise that during his period in office there were times when Bills and the availability of Ministers had to be considered. It is on this issue that we are asking for an accommodational adjournment and we are not going away from the real issues.
Mr. O'Toole: We should not make a political implication that we are moving away from the real business of the House. We are not doing that. All we are asking for is an adjournment. That is really what is at issue here. An adjournment will be very appropriate until such time as we have these busy Ministers available to come before us here.
Mr. McAuliffe: I support Senator Robinson. It is a very important matter. I certainly congratulate Senator Cooney for giving precedence to the motion that Senator Robinson wants raised here today. Apart from the Order of Business, I am delighted to see Senator Lyons back.
Mr. Mulcahy: I support Senator O'Toole. In case anybody gets any idea that we on this side do not think that the  legal aid motion is important, we do. I want it on the record, in case the rather round-the-corner speeches might give an impression in the papers tomorrow that we do not. We feel as much as anybody else does that it is important that it should be debated. We are talking now about administration.
Mr. E. Ryan: I regret very much we have not more business for the House today. We intended today to take as well as the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Order, the motions on legal aid and the Garda Siochána Bill. The position about these motions on legal aid is that the Minister of State was going to take these two motions but unfortunately he is indisposed and could not come here today. It is intended to take both motions this day week. As far as the Garda Síochána Bill is concerned, we expected that it would be ready today but in fact it has not cleared the Dáil yet. That is why that is not available for the House.
We have to fix our dates in advance because of the postal strike and consequently this kind of situation is liable to happen. It is unfortunate that it has happened on this occasion. The position, therefore, is that item No. 2 is the only thing we can go on with and the two motions on legal aid will be taken next week plus, I hope, the Garda Bill and possibly some other business. As regards the adjournment at the moment to enable the Minister for Labour to be here, on reflection perhaps we had better adjourn until 3.30 p.m. because it is possible that he may not be finished Questions until that time.
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