Wednesday, 15 February 1984
Seanad Eireann Debate
Professor Dooge: It is proposed to take Nos. 1, 2 and 3. It is proposed to take the Government business, Nos. 1 and 2, until 6 p.m., to recess from 6 to 7 p.m. and to take No. 3 from 7 until 8.30 p.m. It is not proposed to sit tomorrow and any part of items Nos. 1 and 2 not completed today will be taken on next Wednesday.
Mr. Lanigan: There are one-and-a-half hours left on item No. 3. It seems to me that this motion and the amendment are very important items that we should be discussing fully. It does not seem as if we should allow only one-and-a-half hours for that particular debate, particularly in view of the fact that people on this side will not have any opportunity, in a sense, to participate because this motion was brought in as an independent motion and then there was an amendment to it. We have had only one speaker on this and if we take the Minister's contribution, which presumably would be half an hour, the proposer has the right of reply for half an hour. An Opposition speaker would come in next and it would leave us with only one speaker.
I would appeal to the House that this debate be allowed to continue for longer than the hour and a half. One of the problems we have had here today is that I thought we would be dealing with Nos.  1 and 3: I had not been notified that No. 2 was to be taken today. It is — I do not want to use the word disrespectful — unusual that we would come in here at 2.30 p.m. and not know that item No. 2 was being taken. I do not think that the House could stand for a situation that the main Opposition party had not had a chance to prepare for a particular item. I appeal to the Leader of the House to ensure that if it has to be taken today that in future we will not be faced with this problem.
Mr. Robb: I would preface my remarks by thanking the Leader of the House for arranging the meetings on Wednesdays. I think the point we raised the last day emphasised that it is important, particularly for those who come from far afield, that we know precisely which day we will be sitting and whether we will be sitting two days. The second point is in relation to Senator Lanigan's plea. I wonder is there any facility whereby one could ring up on a Friday to find out what is most likely to be the Order of Business. Obviously one cannot have it confirmed or firmed up at that stage but it would be very helpful if on the previous Friday one could telephone the Office of the Seanad to find out what is most likely to be the Order of Business for the following week so that there would be some time to make the sort of preparations which Senator Lanigan has referred to.
Professor Dooge: Two points have been raised. The first was in regard to the time allocated to the motion. The position is that Standing Orders provide for a six-hour debate on such motions. Due to the collapse of the debate, which was due to the absence of Senators, in fact an additional hour and a half was lost. However, I would not be inclined to say that one should be rigid on these things. If it is the wish of the House that the debate should be extended, I certainly would not resist that. The best way to find out whether or not it is the wish of the House is for consultation to take place between representatives of the various groups in the course of the afternoon so that the matter  could be determined when item No. 3 is called at 7 o'clock. That is my suggestion.
In regard to item No. 2, it is a matter for regret that it was not known, apparently, to all Members that this would be ordered for today. I telephoned the Chief Whip of the Opposition party in order to convey this message to him. That telephone call was abortive because he was not at home. Subsequently we did not meet up together. The position in regard to this question is that if at any time anybody wishes to ring either the Seanad Office or my office in the Seanad, he or she will be told what the Order of Business is if the Order of Business is confirmed at that time. Many Senators have got used to making such an inquiry. If such an inquiry had been made at any time yesterday, or the day before, they would have been informed that this Bill was being ordered. It has been ordered in case the debate on item No. 1 would not run until 6 p.m. If it is the wish of the House that it be not taken, we could take Senator Lanigan's contribution as an amendment to the Order of Business to omit item No. 2 and I would be prepared to accept that. Accordingly, the Order of Business then would be items Nos. 1 and 3, item No. 3 to be taken no later than 7 p.m.
Mr. W. Ryan: Senator Dooge has always been most co-operative as far as the Order of Business is concerned. He has often contacted me by telephone if there was the slightest change in the Order of Business. He telephoned me on Monday but I was not at home. I thought I would be in Dublin earlier than I was yesterday. When I met him before we went into another meeting yesterday evening, he did not mention this to me — probably he had forgotten about it at that stage. That is how this arose. As to  whether we will discuss the Bill today or not I leave to my Leader to decide.
Mr. Lanigan: When I referred to the word “disrespectful” I was not talking directly to the Leader of the House, because he has been, as Senator Ryan has said, co-operative in every way. Nevertheless we have a spokesman on that item. As it happens he does not have the facilities to deal with it as it should be dealt with. I suggest that we go along with the local elections order and, to accede to what has been suggested, that we leave over the National Social Service Board Bill. I think it is an important Bill which should be properly discussed. My spokesman feels that it should not be taken today, but we are in the hands of the Leader of the House.
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