Order of Business.

Thursday, 12 July 1990

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 126 No. 2

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Mr. Fallon: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  The business for today is item No. 1, which is the Broadcasting Bill, 1990. That will continue until 2 p.m.; we will have a sos from 2 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. At 2.30 p.m. we propose to take, by agreement with Members on all sides of the House, the Health (Nursing Homes) Bill, 1989, until approximately 3.30 p.m. at which time we will recommence the Broadcasting Bill to 6.30 p.m., [270] when we will have a sos to 7 p.m. We will continue after that to 10 p.m. with the Broadcasting Bill.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  As I indicated earlier in the week, we will be opposing the Order of Business today and I am formally proposing that item No. 1 not be taken today, that we will take items Nos. 2 and 3 instead. I asked over the last two days that this Bill be deferred. It is very bad practice in the case of any Bill that it comes straight from the Dáil into this House. The whole purpose of the second House is that there be time for reflection on the Bill and that it can be looked at in a calm and reasoned way. That is true of any Bill and it was never more true than in the case of this particular Bill today. No Bill in my memory has had a more acrimonious passage through the Dáil, no Bill has ever gone through such a botched series of procedures or has been so surrounded in recrimination. Tempers are still high, people are tired. There is a danger of compounding an already bad situation. So, I am asking the Government not to take this Bill today. The sensible thing to do is to postpone it until September when we can all look at it in a calm way.

There is also the question of the constitutionality of this Bill. An editorial in the Irish Law Times very recently raised some very serious constitutional questions. Again, as legislators, it is our duty to reflect on these questions and we need time to do that.

Also the text of the amended Bill arrived only half an hour ago. That is a grave discourtesy to this House. The Bill arrived in the first post this morning. There is no updated explanatory memorandum with the Bill. Again, we are being asked, simply to convenience the Government and the Minister, to rush this Bill through in a totally unsatisfactory way. So, I am saying, a Chathaoirligh, that there is no need for the Bill today. It does not come into effect until October and I am formally proposing that we amend the Order of Business by taking items Nos. 2 and 3 today.

[271]Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I would like, first of all, to note that this is a very historic day. It is the 300th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, and perhaps that should be noted. It may also be the day on which another notable battle is fought in this House. I will certainly be supporting Senator Manning in opposing the Order of Business because I think it is discourteous to the House to push this Bill in fresh from the Dáil.

I would like to extend one thing that Senator Manning indicated. This is in fact a very different Bill from the one about which we received notice some time ago. I do not think the proper time for reflection is being allowed. The Bill passed last night in a very different form from that which was originally introduced. We, who are supposed to be a reflective Chamber bringing expert knowledge and our own professional expertise to bear on the refinement of legislation, are placed in a situation where we could not possibly carry out the duty that is required of us as this particular branch of the Oireachtas. I make that point strongly and I will certainly be very happy to support Senator Manning in what I think is a wise and appropriate decision to oppose the Order of Business this morning.

I would like to raise one further point, if I may, and that is that I would like to put item No. 30 — the judgment of the European Court — and to point out to the Leader of the House that I would welcome a real update on this; otherwise I will be pushing for item No. 30 to be taken. The matter has become far more serious in the light of the judgment of the Chief Justice, Mr. Finlay who, from what I have read in the newspapers, has clearly contradicted in yesterday's judgment some of the implications of the judgment he gave in my own case. So, the position becomes daily more anomalous because of the refusal of the Government to act.

Dr. Upton: Information on Pat Upton  Zoom on Pat Upton  We will be supporting the proposal to oppose the debate on the Broadcasting Bill this morning. We do so for the reasons which are outlined. We have obtained the Bill, effectively, five [272] or ten minutes ago. We will also do it because what we are seeing here is essentially a damage limitation stroke from Fianna Fáil. That is basically what it comes to. We are now trying to limit damage on something which has been very badly thought out. Certainly, we would need to have a bit of time to reflect, to calm down and to discuss this thing in an easy and thoughtful manner rather than having the whole thing rushed through this morning.

Pól Ó Foighil: Information on Pol O Foighil  Zoom on Pol O Foighil  An mbeadh an Ceannaire in ann a insint don Teach céard iad na socruithe atá déanta go dtí anois lena chinntiú go mbeidh an córas aistriúcháin curtha ar fáil anseo tar éis an tsamhraidh. Tá cloiste agam, ó fhoinsí éagsúla, nach bhfuil rudaí ag dul ar aghaidh i gceart. Ba mhaith liom, ag an deireadh seachtaine, go mbeadh seans ag an gCeannaire an cheist a chur agus go mbeadh sé in ann teacht isteach go dtí an Seanad an tseachtain seo chugainn agus a insint dúinn céard iad na socruithe atá anois ann, agus a chinntiú go mbeidh na háiseanna ar fáil tar éis an tsamhraidh.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ba mhaith liom i dtús báire tacú leis an méid a dúirt an Seanadóir Ó Foighil. Tá an-ghníomh déanta aige go dtí seo faoin fheachtas atá ar siúl aige chun córas aistriúcháin dhátheangach a chur ar fáil dúinne agus don lucht éisteachta, agus don phreas istigh anseo. Cé gur cheapamar go raibh cuid mhaith geallta, níl faic déanta, fad agus is féidir linn a fheiceáil fós. Tá scéalta ag dul timpeall go bhfuil deacrachtaí ann agus go mbeidh moill ann. Tá sé in am, ní fheadair duitse nó do Cheannaire an Tí, an scéal a thabhairt suas chun dáta dúinn, ar a laghad. Agus tacaím leis an Seanadóir Ó Foighil maidir leis sin.

I agree fully with Senator Manning. There is something profoundly distasteful about this Bill. It has generated extraordinary scenes in the other House which involved calling the Chair of the other House into question. It is going to cause serious difficulties in this House. I know it is not the wish of the decent man who is Leader of this House that this should be done and I profoundly regret the fact [273] it is being forced on him by outsiders who are not Members of this House that he should behave like this.

The only point on which I disagree with Senator Manning is on the absence of an explanatory memorandum. The explanatory memorandum for this Bill would be only two sentences. This Bill is designed to crucify RTE, full stop.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Paddy McGowan  Zoom on Paddy McGowan  I would like to agree with the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Manning, when he said that we should discuss this Bill in a calm and reasoned manner. It would help us all if everybody in this House who has a vested interest in RTE, whether their granny, uncle, brother or cousin is working for RTE, were to declare if we have any personal interest whatsoever——

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Order, please. I am not going to allow interruptions when Members are addressing the House.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  That was an extraordinary statement from Senator McGowan. First of all, could I declare that about 90 per cent of my family income comes from RTE in case that was being referred to. Having got that off my chest I hope I will not have to say it again during the debate.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  We will hear from you, Senator Manning, no doubt, on that as well. I totally agree with what has been said on this side of the House——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I am asking for order, please.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  ——because I think it indicates how seriously the two different sides of this House take this House. It indicates to me that Fianna Fáil take this House as a joke and regards it as legislation that can just be rushed through.

Senators:  Rubbish.

[274]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I am asking for order, please.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Fianna Fáil are introducing a Bill to which we cannot give proper reflection. Perhaps for that side of the House proper reflection is ten minutes. I suspect it is. Proper reflection for them is simply to put it through on the nod. But it seems to me that, if we are not going to be mere lobby fodder and if we are not going to just rush a Bill through, we should give this Bill at least a month's consideration. We should give it serious consideration. It was amended in the Dáil as recently as yesterday. It is showing total contempt for this House to be putting it before us now.

The Leader of the House might answer one or two questions for me. First of all, could he tell us when it is proposed, if Second Stage is passed, which I presume it will be, because I think that is what all these people are doing here today——

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  We were here yesterday as well when you were not here.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I was here yesterday——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  It is not the practice to refer to the absence of Senators from the House. Senator Ross.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Thank you for your protection again, a Chathaoirligh. When are we going to get Committee Stage of this Bill? Is it going to be rushed through next week, or are we going to see this Bill go through without any guillotines on Committee and Report Stages?

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Tacaím leis an iarratas ar an gCeannaire eolas ar fáil faoi cén uair a chuirfear an córas aistriúcháin ar fáil, agus, chomh maith leis sin, a fhiafraí de, an bhfuil aon phleananna ann maidir le cúrsaí foirne, mar níl mórán maithe ann an córas aistriúcháin féin a chur ar fáil mura gcuirfear foireann ar fáil leis an aistriúchán a dhéanamh.

Mr. O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  I would like to ask the Leader of the House if, in the light of [275] the ongoing controversy, lack of certainty and great difficulty for families and children involved in the Beaumont dispute, and the fact that there are tremendous problems still going on in Beaumont, he proposes to have a special debate on this in the Seanad, or at least a statement from the Minister for Health. Essentially, the situation is that there is no paediatric neuro-surgeon for children under the age of three since Mr. O'Neill was removed from his position, and it seems that children are being sent to Glasgow for surgery. I would ask the Leader of the House if he considers the situation in Beaumont and the ongoing problems in the Beaumont Hospital to be worthy of discussion?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  The question is more appropriate for a motion.

Mr. Farrell:  I take exception to Senators on the far side saying that we on this side of the House treat this House as a joke. We treat it very sincerely and if there is any joking it is on the part of the Independents on the far side who are very vociferous at the start of business here on most days.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I think it preferable that we be in a position to do our business without being baited by one side or the other.

Mr. Farrell:  I must make the point——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  That does not give a licence to anybody.

Mr. Farrell:  There was a lot of criticism in this House earlier on this year when there was not enough business coming to this House, but now when business is coming they are too damn lazy to discuss it in a sensible and reasonable way. They want to go home——

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Hederman: Information on Carmencita Hederman  Zoom on Carmencita Hederman  I think that is an outrageous remark. It is quite clear from the [276] remarks that have been made from these benches that what we are seeking is time to discuss this Bill and, furthermore, time to reflect on the Bill. The purpose of the Seanad, as I understand it, if for that very purpose: to deal with Bills which have been steamrolled through the Dáil with tempers running high and there is no Bill in recent times that has caused such controversy and such outcry. The Opposition were totally united in their opposition to the Bill. Indeed, many Government backbenchers were opposed to it also. Why is it being rushed through? Originally there was an element of “Save Century” about the Bill which apparently put some pressure on the time factor. What is the rush for? Why can the Bill not be left until the autumn when we have had time to read the Bill, to read the amendments, and to reflect on it? I think that the Progressive Democrats have been honest in here. They said that they would abolish the Seanad. Fianna Fáil are simply paying lip service to it and are treating it as a joke. They will not give time to this House to fulfil the functions which it is supposed to carry out.

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman  Zoom on Mary Jackman  I, too, would like to have more time to reflect on this Bill. RTE is the most important modern organ of communication in this State. We are supposed to be here as communicators, communicating between each other, exchanging views, debating. It is a source of great irony to me that something that should be the most important business of the House since I came here should be rushed through so quickly. I would ask for some time for reflection.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I, too, will be opposing the Order of Business. It was never the intention of this House — certainly on these benches — when a Bill should be debated the day that it arrived before us. The Bill has been changed drastically since it was initiated; indeed, it changed at the eleventh hour before it came to this House. We have just seen this Bill this morning and we are expected to be discussing on that very day one of the most important Bills to come before the [277] House or to come before the Oireachtas. Indeed, we were expected to discuss it in the space of a few minutes after having seen the Bill. That is totally unacceptable and it reflects a very serious contempt for the workings of this House. I do not consider it as a Broadcasting Bill; it is an act of vandalism against RTE. It is a naked attack on RTE——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  There is no point in trying to take advantage of your opportunity here, Senator. You are not in a position to debate the merits or otherwise of the Bill. We are on the Order of Business.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I would say that it is unnecessary for us to debate it here and now. It is unnecessary that it be rushed because there is an operational date from 1 October. There will be plenty of time for this House to debate it at greater leisure and with a greater period for reflection. That is what this House should be doing. It is supposed to be a House that is able to reflect, to examine thoroughly and to be a check on legislation to ensure that it is proper and good legislation. The function of the House as such is being undermined. I must oppose the Order of Business.

I would finally ask the Leader of the House what his intentions are in relation to the progress of the Bill? How does he envisage that in a short space of time a Bill that caused such controversy, that took such a huge length of time for debate, on which there was such a huge number of amendments, amendments which were not allowed to be discussed, that a guillotine was imposed, there was such an uproar in the other House — how does he intend to get this Bill through in the short period that remains before the end of this session? From any logical and reasonable point of view, in the context both of the traditions and the functions of this House, everything demands that this Bill be left for proper examination, investigation and debate in the autumn.

Mr. D. Kiely: Information on Daniel Kiely  Zoom on Daniel Kiely  I feel that we are genuinely wasting valuable time here this [278] morning. If these people on the other side of the House are concerned about this Bill they should get on with it and debate it properly rather than wasting time. We are almost 25 minutes on this at the moment.

Mr. Staunton: Information on Myles Staunton  Zoom on Myles Staunton  I cannot agree at all with Senator Kiely in that regard. It is because we are so concerned about this Bill that we are spending an unusual amount of time discussing it on the Order of Business this morning. Because we are still on the Order of Business, I will confine my remarks in relation to the issue to a single comment. It is an understatement to say that this Broadcasting Bill is extremely controversial. The whole purpose, as I understand it, of the Upper House is that the Seanad is to be vocational in its approach. It is to be reflective; it is to be measured in its response. We are to put the brakes on especially in areas where there is controversy.

The summer holiday issue is a total irrelevance. I would like to get my break as much as any other Senator in this House. But we would be doing a huge disservice to our electorate and to the people of this country if, merely because there was a summer holiday issue, we must, ipso facto, rush through hugely controversial legislation without due consideration. The whole reason for the reflective purpose of the Seanad is to allow public opinion to be considered, to allow public opinion to galvanise its views and to articulate its response on issues.

Finally, the Government have not, in my view, given a single coherent reason why there is a need for haste in this issue and I am one of those who is all for putting the brakes on.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I seldom speak on the Order of Business, but I rise on this occasion to support the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Manning, in his appeal for a lapse of time so that we can have a quiet and orderly discussion on this Bill. Over the past number of weeks I have not even sat in on the debate in the other House because I believe we [279] should take the legislation as presented to us and deal with it as such.

The question of this Bill being passed late last night and on our Order Paper this morning is unusual and unique. In my long experience here the House has always been very fair to whatever Government is in office in taking important legislation. Practically every year there is a Motion for Early Signature on the Social Welfare Bill, because it is a time situation. Similarly, the Finance Bill has got to be passed all Stages within 90 days of the Budget. But in this present situation, where section 2 of the Bill gives a commencement date of 1 October, it would not be unusual for this House to meet in September, as we have on practically every year for the last 20 years, especially in the periods when Professor Dooge was Leader of the House. I would not object to coming back in the first, second or third week of September, or the first week for the Second Stage and the second week for the Committee and remaining Stages, so that we could consider this legislation in a calm and detached fashion.

One of my colleagues on the other side, Senator McGowan, asked that we should declare an interest. Every individual in the State who looks at television must have an interest and it touches on all our lives. I would ask that we should be able to ensure that, whatever this legislation does, it will enhance the public service, it will enhance the service to the viewers, to the people of this country. There is really no reason why we should make a more controversial issue of it. This House has never been political. I would hope that we should be able to revert to that situation where, even though it has been political in the other House, we can consider this legislation on its merits in a calm and thoughtful manner.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I would like to join with my colleagues in objecting to the way this Bill is presented. I would like to ask the Leader of the House to deny the fact, regardless of the merits of any amendments or any arguments put forward for [280] change in the Bill, that a decision has now been made by the Government not to accept them by virtue of the fact that it would be required to go back to the Dáil and, because the Dáil is adjourning, it would have to be recalled. Regardless of the arguments and regardless of the merit of amendments put by this, or any other side of the House, a decision has now been made not to accept them.

Mr. Fallon: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  In all about 18 Members have spoken on the Order of Business this morning. By far the most of them referred to the Broadcasting Bill. I would have to say that it has been well known in this House that we would be taking it this week. The Whips were aware of it and many Members on all sides of the House were positively aware it was proposed to take it today.

I will go back and refer briefly to what I said earlier in the week regarding legislation generally. The Finance Bill, a Bill of 104 sections, was debated in this House for something like 15 hours, arguably the most important Bill of the year, the Social Welfare Bill had 51 sections we debated it for five hours. We are giving plenty of time to debate this Bill, a Bill of 20 sections and one limited in what it sets out to do.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Not in its implications.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Order, please.

Mr. Fallon: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  The Bill has been debated in the other House for more than 50 hours and today we are allowing for a debate of ten hours. The Whips will meet perhaps this morning or else in the afternoon to decide on the other Stages.

It is not the first time a Bill was passed in the Dáil and came quickly to the Seanad. Senator McDonald referred to the former Senator Dooge, a man I admired greatly at all times. I had the honour of being Opposition spokesman on health at the time and I can remember that on a Monday a Bill was published and sent to us for major debate on the following Wednesday. This kind of thing [281] happens to all Governments and we have to accept it.

The Bill will not come into effect until 1 October. It is unreal for the Opposition to ask that it be deferred. We are taking it today and we will debate it until 10 p.m.

Regarding the other queries, I am sure Senators will understand if I do not mention them because I have covered much of what they said in my comments on the Broadcasting Bill.

Senator Norris also referred to it and made some comments on item 30, I have noted what he said in regard to that particular matter. Senator Upton spoke about the Broadcasting Bill. Maidir le Seanadóir Ó Foighil agus Seanadóir Ó Cuív, beidh mé ag caint leo maidir leis an gceist sin tráthnóna inniu, b'fhéidir.

Senator Brendan Ryan and Senator Ross also referred to the Broadcasting Bill. Senator McGowan agreed with Senator Manning's request for calm and reason on the Broadcasting Bill. Senator Ross asked about the Committee Stage, I said that the Whips will meet. I have no comment to make on the Beaumont [282] dispute. Senator Farrell's comment was not appropriate. Senator Hederman referred to the Broadcasting Bill and used the word “steamroll”. I do not accept that we are steamrolling the Bill. Senators Jackman, Costello and Dan Kiely referred to the Broadcasting Bill as did Senators Staunton, McDonald and Neville.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Senator Manning has moved an amendment on the Order of Business to delete item No. 1 and substitute item No. 3. I wish to point out that the amendment, as moved by Senator Manning, was not formally seconded but, because there is such a volume of support for the amendment as proposed by Senator Manning I am concluding that it is in order and I am taking the amendment. I take it that the amendment is being pressed?

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  Yes.

Question put: “That the words and figure proposed to be deleted stand.”

Bennett, Olga.
Bohan, Eddie.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Sean.
Cassidy, Donie.
Conroy, Richard.
Dardis, John.
Fallon, Sean.
Farrell, Willie.
Fitzgerald, Tom.
Foley, Denis.
Hanafin, Des.
Haughey, Seán F.
Honan, Tras.
Hussey, Thomas.
Keogh, Helen.
Kiely, Dan.
Kiely, Rory.
Lanigan, Michael.
Lydon, Don.
McCarthy, Seán.
McGowan, Paddy.
McKenna, Tony.
Mooney, Paschal.
O'Brien, Francis.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
Wright, G.V.

Cosgrave, Liam.
Costello, Joe.
Hederman, Carmencita.
Howard, Michael.
Jackman, Mary.
McDonald, Charlie.
McMahon, Larry.
Manning, Maurice.
Naughten, Liam.
Neville, Daniel.
Norris, David.
Ó Foighil, Pól.
O'Reilly, Joe.
Ross, Shane P.N.
Ryan, Brendan.
Ryan, John.
Staunton, Myles.
Upton, Pat.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Question put: “That the Order of Business be items Nos. 1 and 2; item No. 2 to be taken from 2.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. and item No. 1 to resume thereafter, and the House to adjourn not later than 10 p.m. today”.

Bennett, Olga.
Bohan, Eddie.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Sean.
Cassidy, Donie.
Conroy, Richard.
Dardis, John.
Fallon, Sean.
Farrell, Willie.
Fitzgerald, Tom.
Foley, Denis.
Hanafin, Des.
Haughey, Seán F.
Honan, Tras.
Hussey, Thomas.
Keogh, Helen.
Kiely, Dan.
Kiely, Rory.
Lanigan, Michael.
Lydon, Don.
McCarthy, Seán.
McGowan, Paddy.
McKenna, Tony.
Mooney, Paschal.
O'Brien, Francis.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
Wright, G.V.

Cosgrave, Liam.
Costello, Joe.
Hederman, Carmencita.
Howard, Michael.
Jackman, Mary.
McDonald, Charlie.
McMahon, Larry.
Manning, Maurice.
Naughten, Liam.
Neville, Daniel.
Norris, David.
Ó Foighil, Pól.
O'Reilly, Joe.
O'Toole, Joe.
Ross, Shane P.N.
Ryan, Brendan.
Ryan, John.
Staunton, Myles.
Upton, Pat.

Question declared carried.

Order of Business agreed to.


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