Wednesday, 21 November 1990
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Fallon: It is proposed to take today Items Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in that order. There will be a sos from 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. and from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. or perhaps a few minutes later, perhaps 8.8 p.m. or thereabouts, we will take Item No. 79, which is the Fianna Fáil motion, the second part of it.
Mr. Manning: Perhaps in conjunction with the handing in of the signatures today on Campaign Aid for overseas development aid, the Leader of the House might make time available before Christmas for a full debate on overseas development aid?
Mr. O'Toole: There are two items which I have raised with the Leader of the House over the past two weeks. First,  the outline of the list of legislation which he proposes to initiate in this House during the course of this term. We are aware of certain names being given to us and certainly the Government Whip has been forthcoming in letting us know some of the developments behind the scenes. For the record, and to know exactly what the position is, we wish to know at this stage so that people can prepare themselves for it what legislation you intend introducing in this House.
The other issue which I want to raise — and I have raised it with you in the past number of weeks also — is the need for a debate on the crisis in the education service. Whether that be through the noting of developments in education or an agreed motion or simply statements, it is certainly agreed on all sides of the House that the whole education service needs discussion just as other aspects of Irish life have received discussion here over the past month or two. I would like a reply on those two issues — the list of legislation and the prospect of a debate or statement or agreed motion on the education service.
Secondly, I would like to ask the Leader of the House when it is proposed to take the Bill which will allow the Minister for Health to distribute unclaimed prize money from the Hospital Sweepstakes to those people who worked in the Hospital Sweepstakes and who were very badly treated in their redundancy terms. I make a special appeal to the Leader to try to facilitate this Bill being taken before Christmas so that these people can get their money.
Mr. Lanigan: There are a couple of  points I would like to raise with the Leader of the House. Yesterday in Kilkenny we had an invasion of public property by a group of travelling traders. They caused a considerable amount of damage in a public area. This group of traders have been travelling around the country for the past two years and nobody seems to be able to control them.
Mr. Lanigan: I am asking the Leader of the House if he can initiate either a debate on this matter here or ask the Minister if there is any way we can deal with this group who are creating havoc in every town and village in Ireland. It is the same group. They are very wealthy; they are not the normal type of trader. They are going around——
I would also like to ask the Leader if he could initiate a debate here on the statement that was made by the Taoiseach yesterday in which he suggested that the sanctions in the Gulf against Iraq should be given time for them to start worrying Iraq rather than as at present where you have certain countries who are seen to want to go for an all-out-war——
Mr. Lanigan: I am asking the Leader of the House a question. I am just telling him why I would like a debate in this House on this particular matter. The Taoiseach came out very strongly in favour of negotiations and the use of sanctions. I think that is the way to go because if there is a war in the Gulf it will impinge on everyone of us here. I do not think we should allow this matter to——
Mr. Lanigan: I would just suggest again to the Leader that this matter be treated urgently as we do not want a war in that area or in any area of the world and there are people who would like to start a war at present.
Mr. O'Reilly: I would like to ask the Leader of the House, as I have done on numerous occasions, if he would give special and urgent consideration to holding a comprehensive debate on what I perceive to be, and many other Members perceive to be, the continuing crisis in the health service. I ask the Leader of the House if he would accept that there are still major difficulties in terms of waiting lists, hospital care and if, in the light of that, he would be willing to give it priority for debate. I think it is a very important matter.
Mr. Norris: I would like, first of all, to express concern at the extreme ugliness and obtrusiveness of the machinery involved in televising the Chamber and to express the wish through you, Sir, that perhaps some amelioration of this can be obtained, because it is a very beautiful Chamber of which we are all proud. I would not like to think it would be spoiled by these instruments.
An Cathaoirleach: What is happening here at the moment, I understand, is experimental and I cannot say that what you are witnessing here at the moment it will be the final result. I understand that  what has been installed and the exercise that will be undertaken shortly is part of the process of the experimental arrangements that have to be undertaken initially.
I would like formally to move that item No. 80 be taken first today. Senator Lanigan referred to statements of the Taoiseach in Paris. I would like to put it into exact context in one brief sentence. The Taoiseach indicated on RTE television news last night that he looked forward to the construction of a new Europe based on the concept of human rights. In that light it would be appropriate that we take this matter dealing with the judgment against Ireland on the subject of human rights.
Finally, I would like to ask the Leader of the House if he will be able to inquire from Government and make a statement to the House concerning newspaper reports that have been occurring recently which indicate that the Taoiseach has offered or is offering to Deputy Brian Lenihan the chairmanship of an Oireachtas joint committee on foreign affairs, that post to be a paid post. The reason I raise it is simply because there are two motions, one in the name of the Labour Party and one in the name of myself and others, seeking the establishment of an Oireachtas joint committee on foreign affairs. I think we would welcome indications that this was about to happen; and I also feel it would be appropriate before the chairmanship is offered to anybody, including very distinguished people like Deputy Lenihan, that the House should be consulted about this establishment because it will be an Oireachtas joint committee.
Mr. Costello: I would like to follow up on the remarks by Senator O'Toole about the need for an urgent debate on education. As we indicated on the last couple of occasions, there is a crisis in  education and certainly I would request the Leader of the House to indicate, if he could possibly do so, a time when he would be prepared to allow a debate in this Chamber on that important issue.
Secondly, I would like to ask the Leader of the House if he would be prepared to allow a debate on the issue of imprisonment of children of the age of 15 in Mountjoy. We have read in the newspapers today where a young girl of 15 has been described as depraved and unruly and imprisoned in an adult prison, which certainly was not intended for any such purpose, and the neglect of the relevant Government Departments in providing alternative facilities.
Mr. McGowan: I would like to ask you and the Leader of the House if we will have an opportunity to discuss a matter which is among the papers laid before the Seanad: Foyle Area (Rivers Finn and Foyle Angling Permits) Regulations, 1989. The River Foyle is jointly managed by the Irish Government and the British Government. Because of serious pollution, which was raised last year, and the consequences for the future of the River Foyle, I would ask the Leader of the House to allow a debate, because we will not have another opportunity to make observations about the administration of a very important jointly managed river. I hope I will have an opportunity to have a discussion on the management of the River Foyle.
Mrs. Jackman: In agreement with the other speakers who have asked the Leader of the House for a debate on overseas development aid, I find it very sad that twice yearly, before Christmas and before Lent, we have emphasis on such aid. It is sad that we saw so many people today bringing with them 21,000 signatures to demand this. It is obvious  that the people of Ireland want development aid and an improvement in the Government funding towards developing countries. I feel it is about time now that the Leader would put pressure on the Government to establish the Oireachtas Joint Committee on overseas development aid and allow us a quick debate.
Mrs. Hederman: I wonder if the Leader of the House could give us some indication of when the legislation required for the reform of local government will be forthcoming. We were told that the local elections were postponed from June 1990 to June 1991. If they are to take place in 1991 under the new arrangement, the legislation would need to be forthcoming fairly soon. I understand that the report which was promised was supposed to be to hand last September. I wonder has that come and when does the Leader feel that the legislation will be before this House?
Mr. Harte: I would like to draw the Seanad's attention to motion No. 82. We have been singing the praises of the great leadership of the Soviet President, but here is an opportunity not only to pay a tribute to him but also to consider what assistance the West can give. At the moment the West is totally ignoring the lead that is being given there. I think that is a shame. This House could be the initiator of a demand that more assistance than they are getting at the moment should come forward. I ask the Leader of the House if he could make arrangements for an early discussion of that motion.
I support Senator Costello on the question of the imprisonment of juveniles. That is a long standing matter and something needs to be done about it. If it remains much longer with us it could become ingrained in our society so something has to be done about that.
I also support the question of having a debate on education. I hope the people who are advocating it will not lose sight of the issue of the number of working class people who manage to get into third level education. I would also ask the Leader of the House to get agreement  with the Whips to have removed from the Order Paper motions that are outdated or have been on the Order Paper for too long.
Mr. Cullen: I would like to ask the Leader of the House when it is proposed that the legislation to deal with the setting up of the Environmental Protection Agency is to be introduced and, indeed, if it is proposed to be introduced into this House first. The setting up of this agency is a matter of great urgency. We are very fortunate that Ireland has such a green image abroad but I am afraid there is major divergence now between the image and the reality. The setting up of this agency, not alone to put a stop to unnecessary pollution in this country but indeed to eliminate it totally for the future, is urgently required particularly from an Irish agricultural point of view. We want to see this legislation introduced as soon as possible.
I support the call for debate on ODA. I will not develop my views on that any further until we have the opportunity to debate it. Also I think item No. 80 on the Order Paper should be treated as a matter of urgency, given the length of time it has been tabled at this stage. Perhaps the Leader would indicate when the television broadcasting of proceedings in this Chamber will actually commence now that we seem to have the hardware in place. I am inclined to agree with Senators who find the cameras obtrusive. I would think that with modern technology we could resort to something a little bit more refined and a little smaller, particularly a fixed camera which I think is to fix on yourself. I am told that in the European Parliament a three inch  diameter camera flush with the wall serves that purpose very adequately. Perhaps we could ensure that we are not getting leftovers and that this is the best that modern technology can do. I do not know.
Mrs. Doyle: There will be remote control. In view of the income crisis being experienced by share fishermen all around our coastline since September and because they are debarred from any social welfare entitlements and in view of your ruling on my Adjournment motion — which, with respect, I disagree with, but I will talk about that again — I would like to be advised by the Leader of the House as to what mechanism we can use to have a debate into this Chamber on the crisis for share fishermen, particularly deck hands, at the moment. It is particularly urgent. It may be a small constituency but it is important and very valuable to our country.
Mr. B. Ryan: May I say, first of all, that I agree with Senator Doyle and Senator Norris. It is one of the characteristics of television that those who operate it never seem to appreciate how the technology intrudes and impinges on everybody else. In my view, if those things are necessary for the televising of this House, I would be quite happy to do without it. I find them ugly, offensive and unnecessary. Senator O'Toole is laughing at me——
Mr. B. Ryan: May I say also that I agree completely with Senator Costello's views of a 15 year old female child being locked up in the worst female prison in western Europe on legislation that is 70 years out of date. It is a disgrace and it is something this House should debate, not in a cursory, half an hour debate but in a serious debate. I appeal to the Leader of the House to allow the question of the non-availability of proper custodial places for young people who break the law to be debated. It is a serious issue that should be discussed and debated in this House and the Minister should be invited to explain why no such facility is available.
I heard the demand for a debate on the crisis in education, and I agree with it. I heard the demand for a debate on the crisis in the health services, and I agree with it. I have also heard a demand frequently — and we have had one recently — for a debate on the crisis in agriculture. I would like to suggest to the Leader of the House, through you, Sir, that we have been told by all the economists that this country is booming; yet, we have crises in education, health, agriculture, etc. Could we have a debate on the crisis in economics, because it appears that the science of economics is entirely out of touch with reality? One of the problems in this country is that we are listening to people who cannot actually talk about the real situation on the ground and that we should look at the quality of advice that is given. That is a serious debate. We should look at the sort of advice our Government give because obviously those who advise the Government have no contact with reality.
Finally, Senator Lanigan — with whom  I agree on the issues in question — raised the question of the Gulf. In tune with Senator Farrell's congratulations to Fine Gael on their new Leader, could the Fine Gael Party explain to me where they stand now——
Mr. B. Ryan: In conclusion, may I ask, simply as a matter of procedure, when will item No. 6 be taken, the International Development Association (Amendment) Bill, because I want to put the House on notice that I will be opposing the Bill on the grounds that it is spurious, wasteful and entirely contrary to the interests of the developing countries of the world.
Mr. O'Keeffe: Given the fact that I raised the matter of the releasing of confidential tapes as something of extreme concern to myself and to other people involved in academics, may I ask the Leader of the House that he would allow discussion on the matter; and, given the fact that UCD have now reprimanded,  quite rightly in my view, the student concerned and have set down a code of ethics——
Mr. O'Keeffe: I ask the Leader of the House, given the fact that a code of ethics was not written down by the authorities in UCD and now that that matter has been rectified, that this House would ensure that a code of ethics would be written in by the Senate of the National University of Ireland, by the two Universities in Dublin and Limerick and, indeed, by Trinity College. This is a matter that could have grave repercussions for postgraduate students——
Pól Ó Foighil: Ba mhaith liom a fhiafraí arís de Cheannaire an Tí, maidir le ceist a chuir sé air an tseachtain seo caite, an ndearna sé socrú go gcasfainn leis an CCP le mo chás a phlé leis, mar go gcreidim go bhfuil daoine sa Teach seo nach dtuigeann céard a bhíonn á rá agam nuair a bhím ag caint. Sul má chuirtear na deiseanna seo isteach sa Teach seo is é an ceart bunreachtúil atá ag Comhalta ar bith sa Seanad seo ná go dtuigfí é, agus tá mé ag iarraidh an ceart seo a fháil tríd an gCathaoir. Thaispeáin an Ceannaire an tseachtain seo caite nár thuig sé mé, bíodh gur cheist shimplí a bhí ann. Níor fhreagair sé mo cheist. Tá mo chearta bunreachtúla sáraithe anseo gach uair. Ní féidir liom labhairt ar na hábhair go bhfuil na Seanadóirí go léir ag caint futhu. Ba mhaith liom labhairt futhu, ach níl aon deis agam mar ní thuigtear mé agus tá míthuiscint á baint as mo chuid cainte.
Pól Ó Foighil: Sé an ceist atá agam  anois ná an bhfuil socrú á dhéanamh ag Ceannaire an Tí seo a bhféadfainn casadh leis an Committee on Procedure and Privileges inniu nó amárach, mar níl mé ag brath fanacht a thuilleadh agus tá mé ag brath comhairle dhlíthiúil a fháil faoi seo.
Mr. Ross: Thank you for your protection, a Chathaoirligh. I would like to ask the Leader of the House, in view of the fact that we have an absence of legislation — maybe he is going to enlighten us today and produce a list of legislation which is coming before the House and which would be very welcome — whether he would possibly accept, which has not been accepted in the past, legislation from Independent Members and Members of the Opposition and allow it to be debated in this House and given a full run in the House. Unfortunately, this has been refused in this House for a certain length of time. I believe there has been Private Members' legislation which the Government side have simply refused to take.
Secondly, I would like to ask the Leader if he would allow or, indeed, initiate a debate on Northern Ireland. I was in Northern Ireland over the past few days and I must say there are different noises coming out of Northern Ireland about the talks that are going on from what I hear down here. It would be very enlightening if we were to have a full and frank debate with a declaration by the Government about what is going on in those talks and who is holding them up.  The people I talked to in Northern Ireland quite blatantly and openly feel that the Dublin Government is the nigger in the woodpile here——
Mr. Ross: ——but the Dublin Government maintain that it is the people in Northern Ireland who are holding up matters. It would be very useful if the Leader of the House would allow us to have a debate on this very important matter while we have obviously time on our hands.
Mr. McKenna: I just want to ask a question of the Leader of the House: would he readily appreciate that it would appear by the response of some of the individual Members on the Opposition benches, that they give tacit credibility to the type of activity that took place? They are always at pains with their sanctimonious——
Mr. McKenna: I am asking a question through the Chair. Certain people represent the Universities. I am asking a question: do they, by the type of response they have given here today, give credibility to the type of activity——
Mr. Staunton: First, I would like to thank my colleague from the west, Senator Farrell, for his very flattering and  generous remarks concerning my new leader. I am thrilled that he did not go as far as his colleague in the Dáil yesterday, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Reynolds, who in wishing him good luck, wished him many years of happiness and satisfaction in Opposition.
I would like to join with my fellow Senators in describing these cameras as absolutely obnoxious and totally out of keeping with the character of this magnificant room on which the State has spent so much money. They are a gross intrusion. About two months ago in Berlin I saw a film showing of a so-called people's court which took place in 1944 without any such intrusion. If they could get their act together correctly 46 years ago, the wit of modern technology in 1990, should be able to conceive of something infinitely better than these gross intrusions we are looking at here today.
I would like to put two points to the Leader of the House. First, I want to endorse entirely the repeated calls by Senator O'Reilly for a debate in general terms on the health services. Secondly, I would like to ask him what progress has been made in regard to the repeated calls which have been made in this House, both on the Leader's side and on this side, for the establishment of a foreign affairs committee. I raise that issue now because in recent days we have been reading cryptic comments which suggest that the Government are on the point of establishing such a committee. If that is so, I welcome it. I welcome it for the following reasons——
Mr. Staunton: You have been very generous with me, a Chathaoirligh, but I just wanted to make the simple point that even on the Order of Business today five Members of this House have called for debates on issues which are effectively foreign affairs issues. A fact of life is that this is the only Parliament in western  Europe that does not have a foreign affairs committee. The excuse earlier this year was that we were terribly absorbed in the Presidency of the European Community — I compliment the Government on that; it was a very effective exercise but if we are not to become irrelevant to what is happening in the rest of Europe——
Mr. Dardis: Could I ask the Leader of the House to make time available for statements on the latest developments within GATT? I know we have discussed this matter previously but we have advanced from that. I would ask him to do that particularly in view of the fact that the US seems to have moved now from a position where it was previously conducting a propaganda war to one where it is now trying to intimidate its opponents by threat of a trade war. We would welcome the opportunity to reject that.
Mr. Fallon: A number of Senators, including Senator Manning, asked for a debate on overseas aid. Some Senators asked when item No. 6, which deals with the International Development Association, will be taken. I hope that Bill will be taken very soon, probably next week. Therefore, the points made by many  Senators dealing with overseas aid can be made in that debate.
Senator O'Toole asked for the list of Bills for initiation in this House. As I indicated, we already have had the Statute of Limitations Bill, the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, another Justice Bill. We have had a number of Bills and we are hopeful of getting more. Active discussion is taking place at all times on the question of having Bills initiated in the Seanad.
The Senator also mentioned the need for a debate on education. I can assure Senators that this is well in place. We are having discussions and hopefully we will have such a debate as soon as possible. As the Senator indicated, it will be a broad debate on the whole education area.
Senator Upton asked about the people in the Hospitals Sweepstakes. The Public Hospitals (Amendment) Bill will be with us before Christmas and we can have a full discussion on that. The Senator also asked about the Environment Agency Bill as did Senator Cullen and others. My understanding is that this Bill will be published fairly soon. It is a very important Bill. I am having discussions with the appropriate people to ensure that that Bill is initiated in the Seanad.
Senator Lanigan referred to the problems in Kilkenny, but this problem is not confined to Kilkenny. There is the Casual Trading Act and the Senator is probably talking about an extension of the Act. If that is the way to do it, obviously we should talk to the Minister for Justice. Senator Lanigan also raised the question of a debate on sanctions on the Gulf. It is something I will think about and will discuss with him at a later date.
Senator O'Reilly asked for a debate on health. At this time I have no plans for a debate on health, but I would make the point to Senator O'Reilly and, to others that they have the opportunity in Private Members' time to arrange a debate on health problems or whatever other issues that they consider appropriate.
Senator Norris referred to the television cameras and the Cathaoirleach replied. I have no proposal at this time  to take item No. 80 to which the Senator referred. Senator Norris also referred to a foreign affairs debate. I am not aware of any move towards setting up a committee to deal with foreign affairs. I think the House would agree that there have been more debates on foreign affairs in the Seanad than in the other House. It has been a feature of this House that we have had many debates on foreign affairs.
Senator Costello referred to education. He also referred to the child in Mountjoy under the age of 15 years. This is a matter for concern for all of us. I have no plan for a debate on that matter at this time. I note that Senator Costello has seconded the motion for a debate on item No. 80.
Senator McGowan talked about the future of the River Foyle. I have no plans for a debate on that matter. Senator Jackman referred to item No. 6 — International Development Association (Amendment) Bill, 1990. I have referred to that already. Certainly we will have plenty of opportunity to discuss that Bill when it comes before the House.
Senator Hederman asked for a debate on local government legislation. My understanding is that reports are still being compiled and I do not know when legislation will be completed; certainly it will not be before Christmas.
Senator Harte raised a number of points on motion No. 82 on the Order Paper. Although that motion is in the names of Fine Gael Senators it is suitable and appropriate to Private Members' time, and perhaps it should be considered in that context. Senator Harte also referred to the juvenile in Mountjoy.
Senator Cullen referred to the Environmental Protection Agency and I have replied to that. I am very anxious that we would have this Bill with us for initiation and I am keeping my fingers crossed that that will happen.
Senator Doyle referred to overseas aid and to item No. 80 on the Order Paper. She also asked about the televising of  proceedings of the House. I have given this information on a previous occasion. My understanding is that we will have in-House televising towards the end of November and broadcasting proper should begin when we resume after Christmas. The first official telecast from the Dáil will be on Budget day and I understand that the Seanad will start sometime after that, probably in February or thereabouts.
Senator Ryan referred to the placing of the TVs in the Chamber and the Cathaoirleach has replied to that. He also referred to casual trading, to the child in Mountjoy, and to education. I have noted what he said but I cannot do anything about the advice that is given to the Government. I have noted what he said on item No. 6 and, as I have indicated to other Senators, I hope that item will be taken next week and we can have a debate on it.
I have no objection to Senator Ó Foighil attending a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges but, in fairness, I would have to say there are excellent persons on the Committee on Procedure and Privileges such as Senators Manning, Doyle and Naughten.
Mr. Fallon: Senator Ross referred to the Independents having a role in legislation. That is something I will think of at the appropriate time. He asked for a debate on Northern Ireland. I have no plans for a debate on Northern Ireland but it is something I will consider.
 Senator McKenna's point is not appropriate to the Order of Business. Senator Staunton referred to Deputy John Bruton and to such matters as the TV cameras and health. Again, I am not aware of the formation of a foreign affairs committee. Senator Haughey's point was not appropriate to the Order of Business.
Mr. Norris: I would like to raise a point of order. I did not wish to interrupt the Leader of the House while he was speaking. Could you guide us as to whether it was correct for the Leader to refer to the absence of Senator Hederman? It may have been a little bit unwise, indeed slightly discourteous, to ask a question about somebody who is not here.
An Cathaoirleach: It is not the practice that the absence of Senators be referred to. I think it was done in a way that was intended to be very conscious of the importance of the question put and he was acknowledging in a very courteous way the desirability of emphasising what she wanted to hear by way of his reply. A misunderstanding of that is being mischievous where the Senator is concerned.
Mr. Fallon: I am disappointed Senator Norris should refer to that matter. The fact is that Senator Hederman came to me and indicated she had to leave the Chamber as she has to catch a plane. She apologised for having to leave the Chamber and she asked me to give the reply.
An Cathaoirleach: I would also like to point out that where any Member of this House is not fluent in the use of the Irish  language it is not appropriate or correct that that Member should be required or compelled, in a manner that I think is most unfair, to use the language. Facilities are being provided in this Chamber to allow all Members to be able to debate and discuss matters in the two official languages provided for by the Constitution. In future, I will not allow any remarks to be made that are intended to cause embarrassment. I thank the Leader of the House for the courtesy of his reply and I thank the House for their support in that matter.
An Cathaoirleach: The fact that the Chair makes a comment does not mean the Senator has a right of reply. I am not putting the amendment moved by Senator Norris and appropriately seconded: “That item No. 12, Motion 80, be inserted before item No. 1.”
Murphy, John A.
Ross, Shane P.N.
Haughey, Seán F.
O'Donovan, Denis A.
Ryan, Eoin David.
|Last Updated: 23/05/2011 09:39:50||Page of 11|