Wednesday, 23 January 1991
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Fallon: It is proposed to take item No. 3, the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990—Second Stage until 6 p.m. to have a sos from 6 p.m. until 6.30 p.m. and from 6.30 p.m. until 8 p.m. to discuss the Labour Party motion, item No. 66. In relation to No. 66 I propose, as on similar occasions, that the speech of the Senator proposing the motion shall not exceed 20 minutes and the speech of any other Senator shall not exceed ten minutes. We will resume the debate on the Environmental Protection Agency Bill at 8 p.m. and continue until 10 p.m.
Mr. Manning: On the Order of Business, there is a number of points. First, may I compliment the authorities on the extremely good job they have done in relocating the television cameras? The two to my left are not obstrusive. All credit is due to the authorities for making the change so speedily and so well during the Christmas period. Second, may I thank the Leader of the House for responding so promptly to the request from the Opposition parties to have a debate tomorrow on the Gulf crisis? We appreciate the opportunity to fully discuss that matter. Third, may I offer the sympathy of my group to the family of the late Senator Bryan Alton, former Member of this House for the NUI panel? He was an extremely distinguished physician, a man who made a great contribution to the world of medicine and the world of the university. He was a very humane and fine doctor.
Mr. O'Toole: First, as I asked before the recess, will the Leader of the House outline the programme of legislation he intends taking in this House this session? Would he distinguish between what is  being initiated in this House and in another place? Will he indicate any change he might see in the operation of the House? We had a number of discussions on various aspects of the changes that might be made. A matter of particular interest to us, which has been raised already by the Independent and other groups in the House, is the need to expand Private Members' time. I wish to hear the views of the Leader of the House on that.
There remains on the Order Paper a number of items which we raised during the last term and sought to have some movement made on them. I want to refer specifically to Item No. 10: Intermediate Education (Amendment) Bill, 1989. It is a
Bill entitled an Act to amend the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1878, for the purposes of removing a statutory obstacle to free access to secondary education for girls and of deleting a discriminatory subsection regarding the education of girls.
We have raised this issue time and again. It relates to a matter of discrimination. I do not intend making a speech, but this issue must be addressed and it can be done by very simple amending legislation. I would ask your view on that, and on the matter of a nuclear free zone. We discussed this on previous occasions and got commitments from the Minister for Energy at the time that the issue would be looked at. We were aware there were some difficulties for medical institutions which might have to deal with certain substances which would need to be exempt from a nuclear free zone. Now is the time to take action on this.
I want to draw the attention of the House to the number of papers which are laid before the House today. It is impossible for any Member, no matter how committed or how diligent, to deal with so many. How are Members expected to deal with this? Is it possible to raise issues arising from the papers laid before the House? Is it possible to pick out one, and raise it and ask questions at  this stage or to ask for a debate on it? We should not have so many papers laid before the House at the same time. I realise this happened because this is the first sitting day, but it is impossible to cast an eye over all of them.
Dr. Upton: Let me join in the expression of sympathy to the family of the late Dr. Bryan Alton. I want to thank the Leader of the House for allowing the debate on the Gulf crisis tomorrow. Would it be possible to have a debate on the GATT talks at the earliest opportunity? Also, would it be possible to reconsider the arrangement for raising matters on the Adjournment? Each day there are a number of items raised and it would be a great help if more than one item could be taken. I would have no objection to a shorter period being given to each item, even as little as ten minutes.
Mr. Dardis: May I join with other Members in expressing the sympathy of the Progressive Democrats group to the family of the late Senator Alton. I agree with Senator Manning about the television cameras, because I was very critical of their location, and the fact that they were spawning offspring.
I join with Senator Upton in asking the Leader of the House to provide time for a debate on the GATT and also on the whole question of the manner in which the Commission proposes to advance cuts in farm spending. It is quite laudable to protect farm incomes but at the same time we must not remove the competitive advantage or the competitive base of the whole Irish agricultural industry and that is what is at stake here. I realise that the Leader of the House has, in the past, frequently made time available for these matters but things are moving very rapidly and I would ask him to do so again.
In relation to the debate on the Gulf I would ask the Leader of the House to bring the concern of the House to the attention of the Government about our troops in Lebanon and to tell us what plans the Government have to ensure the safety of the members of the 58th UNIFIL battalion in Lebanon in the  event of the war escalating. I do realise Lebanon is far away from the main theatre of war but now that Israel appears to being drawn increasingly into the conflict, the families of Irish troops in Lebanon are very concerned about their safety. I would ask the Leader of the House, in whose home town there must be concern too about this matter, to bring this concern to the attention of the Government. Perhaps we can have an answer tomorrow during the debate or maybe the Senator has an answer now.
Mrs. Doyle: You will recall that as we discussed the Companies Bill in this Chamber before Christmas there was a simultaneous leak of the inflation figures which resulted in some insider dealing on the Stock Exchange. At that time the Taoiseach promised a full investigation and indeed a report on what actually happened. I understand that investigation has taken place. I would like to ask the Leader of the House when we may know what this report holds and when it will be published? I would also like to support the call for a full discussion in this House at the earliest possible opportunity on the GATT talks. Could we add to that the most important issue of the recent attempts to reform the Common Agricultural Policy and the implications of that for all sectors of agriculture and agribusiness in this country. The Leader of the House was gracious enough to concede a full day's debate, if I recall correctly, on agriculture during the last session but things are moving very quickly in this vital area and as soon as is possible I would request that we have the same facility again.
Mr. S. Haughey: May I have your guidance in relation to item No. 66 on the Order Paper. I assume this motion refers to the port access and eastern relief route. This matter is currently before Dublin City Council. It is part of the draft development plan and that plan is on display to the public until March. At this moment democracy is being implemented. The people are having their say in relation to the port access and  the eastern relief route and I believe it would be untimely for the Oireachtas to interfere now with the democratic process of the local authorities.
Mr. S. Haughey: I would like to be associated with the remarks of Senator Manning in relation to Dr. Bryan Alton. I knew Dr. Alton, indeed I sat on a hospital board with him until shortly before his death. He will be sadly missed in medical circles.
Mr. Costello: In relation to item No. 66 which was tabled by Labour, no doubt Senator Haughey will have the opportunity, if he so wishes, to address the motion when it is being debated later today. That is the time to deal with it. I would like to compliment the Leader of the House for setting aside tomorrow for a debate of the Gulf crisis. That is very appropriate. I trust the Senator will remember the reasonable promise he made to allow debate on current issues, one of which would be on the prisons, early in the new session. I would also ask him to add to the list of current important issues that he might consider for debate, the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. That programme will cover three years and has implications for the entire decade. It would be most appropriate that the House have an opportunity of debating it because it has been agreed outside the House. It is important that the Legislature have an opportunity of debating it fully.
Mr. Costello: I support the call by Senator Upton that we have a review of Adjournment debates. It would be very useful if we could expedite the large number of requests for Adjournment debates by allowing three topics to be raised on the Adjournment.
Mr. B. Ryan: May I start on a positive note by thanking the Leader, as many of my colleagues have done, for allowing a substantial debate on the war in the Gulf. I notice that a number of my colleagues used words like “situation” and “crisis” whereas what we have is a war. Last week we had a crisis, now we have a war.
Mr. B. Ryan: I think semantics are extremely important and I stand over my comments. May I say also, in the context of what I have said, that it is a pity the Leader did not put down a motion which reflected the realities of today rather than the aspirations of ten days ago about what is happening in the Gulf. He could still rewrite his motion to reflect on the fact that there is now a war in progress and that the consensus of the Western forces is that it will be a long, bloody and unpleasant war, that it will not be over quickly and that some of the aspirations are somewhat dated by the realities that now exist.
 One of the realities of that war is censorship. Therefore, may I ask the Leader in regard to No. 36, if my reading of Latin Roman numerals is correct, Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960 (Section 31) Order, 1991 on the Páipéir a leagadh faoi bhráid an tSeanaid — Papers laid before the Seanad — if it is the order under section 31 of the broadcasting Act to censor our own media? Given that this order has been in force for numerous years and is rarely debated in either House of the Oireachtas will he provide Government time to have a debate on the order under section 31 as it is laid before the Seanad so that this censorship of our media should at least come under the scrutiny of the Oireachtas? It is a bit much to have many sections of our media tut-tutting about censorship, particularly the type of censorship that now exists in the Middle East, while we have an extensive and broadly ranging censorship. A debate would be worthwhile.
I agree with many of my colleagues who seek a debate on the crisis in agriculture. May I add my area of interest to that. I would like to have a debate which took a fairly strong look at the distribution of income within agriculture. When 80 per cent of the total income from agriculture goes to 20 per cent of those who earn that income there is an almost Third World level of maldistribution of income.
Mr. B. Ryan: If we are to have a motion on the GATT negotiations can we simply not talk about agriculture in global terms and talk about the Third World maldistribution of income which rewards the richest farmers and leaves the rest impoverished?
Professor Conroy: First, I join in sympathy to Dr. Bryan Alton's family and also in tribute to the man. He was one of the leading figures in Irish and European medicine in the post-war world. He was a larger than life figure in more senses  than one. He was a great person, a great teacher, a great doctor and a former Member of the Seanad. I would like to pay tribute to him and extend sympathy to his family. I welcome the decision of the Leader of the House to have a debate on the Gulf War. The crisis in the Gulf was raised at our last meeting before Christmas and I very much appreciate that tomorrow morning we will have a debate on the war.
I should also like to express the hope that we will not have to have a debate on what is happening in Europe where the independence of three small countries is being greatly threatened. Let us hope Mr. Gorbachev will relent so that the campaign which seems about to be instituted against those states will not be carried out.
Professor Raftery: I should like to add my voice to those who have called for a debate on the GATT negotiations and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. There is a rather naive view abroad that this issue only concerns farmers but anything that will cut the flow of capital into this country by perhaps £400 or £500 million will affect the whole economy. This issue is so important that it deserves an indepth debate. We should have such a debate soon because the GATT negotiations are due to be completed some time in March, and, as I see it, part of the price to be paid to the United States will be reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Professor Murphy: ——an event that might otherwise have escaped our notice. I would have preferred if the Leader of the House had so ordered business that we were to take item No. 4 today, that is, the debate on the war in the Gulf, because important though the Environmental Protection Agency is — and long we have waited for it — there is no doubt about which issue is uppermost in our minds. It would have reflected that particular priority had we been able to debate that issue first. However I accept that these matters are otherwise arranged. In fact, it was not until Senator Manning replied that I was aware that this item is to be taken tomorrow. Senator O'Toole asked that a general picture be given of the order of business of the term ahead, but I have a much more modest request. When we meet on Wednesdays although the Leader does not have any commitment to do this, as a matter of courtesy he might inform us of what is likely to be discussed on Thursdays.
May I congratulate the Leader of the House on the publicity he has achieved, not for himself but for the Seanad, in a newspaper report yesterday in which he said he hoped the forthcoming term would contribute to a higher profile for the Seanad, and in which he thanked the Opposition — by which I take it he also meant the Independent Senators who are not to be confused with the Opposition; in fact, I might suggest that not every Independent is to be confused with other Independents — and the Independents for their co-operation in the last session. I would wish sincerely to assure him that we reciprocate that intention and we would hope to continue with it.
Mr. Cullen: I thank the Leader of the House for responding to my request last week to have a debate in this House on the Gulf war. Now that the war is becoming far more complicated and difficult I believe that we as a nation will have more responsibilities and requirements thrust upon us under our membership of the UN and indeed within the EC.
Mr. Cullen: I am not fully satisfied that we are prepared to cope with the consequences of those responsibilities and I believe we will need to have a lot  more debate on this issue. I look forward to tomorrow's debate during which many questions will be asked and hopefully some answers given on what will be required of us in the weeks and months ahead.
Mr. Hanafin: I too should like to be associated with the expression of sympathy to the family of the former Senator, Bryan Alton. I knew Bryan Alton very well, and not just when he was in the Seanad. My wife and I were patients of his. As a family we owe a lot to Bryan Alton for the medical attention he gave my wife when she was seriously ill. It was with regret that I heard of his death.
I was deeply distressed when I heard of the illness of former Senator John Kelly. I knew John Kelly very well when he was a Member of the Seanad and, of course, when he was a Member of the Dáil. In my experience in the Oireachtas very few people had the reputation John Kelly had or were as highly regarded by people of every political view throughout the country. I understand that he is still very seriously ill. Perhaps Senator Manning, would convey our wishes that he will be well again soon. I believe he was an outstanding and a very courageous public figure. He was never afraid at any time to speak against the views of his own party or anybody else and to stand up for what he believed was right. We do not meet people like him that often in public life and when we do they should be respected. I would like my views conveyed to his family.
Mr. Norris: I should like to support Senator Murphy in saying that I wish item No. 4 had been taken today. In fact, I wish it had been taken much earlier this month. I think a number of people on all sides of the House indicated that they were concerned about the probable outcome we have now witnessed and hoped that we might have met before 15 January because it may appear to the wider public that we are positively Roman in our senatorial indolence — fiddling while Baghdad and now Tel Aviv burn, but I suppose  better late than never, but it does indicate that we do not imagine our words here will have any immense impact. That may, unfortunately, be a realistic view particularly having regard to the Government's policy about which I will have more to say tomorrow.
Perhaps the Leader of the House would ask the Government if, in the light of these unfortunate developments and their unfortunate attempts to lickspittle with people like Saddam Hussein, which compares most unfavourably with their refusal to have an embassy here from the state of Israel, they will take this matter back to the Government and ask them for a view on it.
Mr. Norris: I was asking a question, and one which I hope will be answered. I would like to ask the Leader of the House to give an indication as to when item No. 52 may be taken. It relates to the question of the harmonisation of asylum policy contingent upon the completion of the Internal Market in 1992. It is directly relevant to the situation in the Gulf in the light of the fact that people of Middle Eastern origin are being expelled both from the northern part of this island and from the United Kingdom back to jurisdictions where they may meet a very unhappy fate. I ask for this matter to be considered. I am sure all Members of the House are concerned about it and it is not just a matter for individuals or for a section of a party. I imagine many of us have been circularised. Today I received a communication from Amnesty International saying that they are very concerned that no debate on this issue has taken place in either House of the Oireachtas. Perhaps, Sir, it would be appropriate to have a debate in Seanad Éireann on this matter which is, unfortunately, becoming increasingly important.
Mr. O'Keeffe: I should like to thank the Leader of the House for answering the promptings of his colleagues on the Fianna Fáil bench here by providing for a debate on the Gulf crisis tomorrow. I say we are indeed grateful to him, in case it is thought that the thanks came from one quarter alone.
Mr. O'Keeffe: May I also avail of this opportunity to ask the Leader of the House if he will allow time for a debate on moneylending, legal and illegal, given the fact that many lower income families are finding it extremely difficult at this point in time to pay back the exorbitant rates of interest they are being charged? I raise this issue because I am aware that an EC Directive now exists which calls into question the idea of having one rate of interest throughout the Community. It would be an appropriate time to have such a debate and see what the Government have in mind by way of legislation in this area this term.
Mr. Lydon: I would like to be associated with the remarks concerning Dr. Bryan Alton, a former Senator whom I knew. I do not want to repeat what has been said already except that he was a very good man.
I would also like to thank whoever was responsible for removing the two cameras from in front of us. I see they are now behind the drapes but, however, they have spawned a number of young and are now clinging beneath the lights. I would like the leader's assurance that some day we are not going to see more of these little lads all over the place because we have enough of them now.
Mrs. Hederman: I would like to associate myself with the tributes which have been paid to former Senator Bryan Alton. He was a colleague of my husband for many years in the Mater Hospital. He was held in very high esteem by the wider  medical profession and, indeed, was generally accepted as being a man of great wisdom. I would like to join in sending condolences to his family. I would also like very much to join with Senator Hanafin in sending good wishes to former Senator John Kelly, a very old friend of mine, who, I believe, is very ill. I would like to wish him a speedy recovery.
Mr. Mooney: As someone who comes  from rural Ireland I am a little surprised that this motion appears before the second Chamber of the national parliament. It is something that would be more appropriate for discussion at local council level. That is not in any way to take from the merits of the case. I am just making the point that it is the sort of motion——
Mr. Mooney: I would like to welcome, as all sides of the House have done, the motion to discuss the Gulf war. I hope the leader might convey sympathy to the people and the Government of Israel and also express concern at reports emanating from Israel that gas masks have been denied to the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank.
Mr. Fallon: A number of speakers referred to the debate on the Gulf war, a very important issue and one in which we all are interested. I received a letter from Senator Manning on behalf of Senator O'Toole and Senator Upton——
Mr. Fallon: As I was saying, I received requests last week from many Senators including Senator Manning, on behalf of Senators O'Toole and Upton, Senator Cullen and many of the Senators on this side of the House. It is obvious that all parties were requesting a debate on this matter and hence it is on the Order Paper for tomorrow. Many people have referred to the debate and, therefore, I will not mention them as I go through the list.
Reference was made to the late former Senator Bryan Alton, and I too on behalf of the Government side would like to express my sympathy with his family. He was, as I understand it, a very caring and excellent medical practitioner and I am sure he will be sadly missed by his family and medical friends.
Senator O'Toole asked about a programme for the time ahead. It is not possible to give a full list, but I can say that we will be dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, the Child Care Bill and the Appropriation Bill. He also also asked about expanding Private Members' time, but there are no proposals to do that at present. He asked about the examination of the Order Paper. There is an ongoing examination of the agenda and that will continue. The Senator also asked about an education  Bill and a nuclear zone Bill. I have no plans to take those Bills at present and I have no role whatsoever in regard to the papers laid before the Oireachtas. I agree with the Senator that the list is long today but I assume that is because this is the first sitting of the new session.
Senator Upton asked about Adjournment debates and if the time could be broken down in some way. Again, as the Cathaoirleach rightly pointed out, that is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. It is not a matter for me to comment on. The Senator also asked for a debate on the GATT negotiations and the Common Agricultural Policy. Obviously, this is a matter we should debate. We had a debate recently on agriculture but I accept the need for a debate on the negotiations. I cannot give a date for such a debate but it is something I will keep in mind. We may get around to doing something about it in the next few weeks, but I cannot give any specific date.
Senator Dardis referred to the GATT negotiations, the cuts in farm grants and to the troops in the Lebanon. I am sure the Senator will agree that that is a point for mention in the debate tomorrow. In reply to Senator Doyle, I am not aware of the report on insider dealing that took place before Christmas. I will make inquiries in the matter and will contact the Senator about it. Senator Doyle also referred to a debate on the GATT talks and the Common Agricultural Policy.
Senator Haughey referred to item No. 66. While the Minister will be in attendance this evening, he will probably say that there is a lack of ministerial responsibility in regard to that matter for the obvious reason. Senator Costello referred to the Gulf war and the prison system. I gave an assurance on that matter and I am not forgetting about it. I will certainly do something about it. The Senator also referred to the economic and social programme announced yesterday. There is no plan for a full debate on that but it might be suitable for mention on the Appropriation Bill. However, I will think more about it. Senator Costello also asked about a  shortening of the Adjournment debate which, as the Cathaoirleach rightly pointed out, is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
Senator Ryan asked about section 31, but I have no proposals to deal with that matter. He also asked about the income of the Third World. That is not a matter that is appropriate to the Order of Business. Senator Conroy referred to the Gulf war and supported the idea of a debate on it. Senator Raftery asked for a debate on the GATT negotiations and the Common Agricultural Policy. Senator Murphy referred to the Gulf and he also referred to me in relation to Independent Members. I cannot recall, quite honestly, to what he referred but I would love from time to time to praise the Independent Members and I assure him they are very important people in this House. However, I cannot recall at any time praising them in any newspaper article.
Senator Cullen referred to the Gulf debate. Senator Hanafin referred to the death of the former Senator Bryan Alton and also to the illness of the former Minister, John Kelly. We would all like to send our good wishes to John Kelly. He is a very good character in every way and certainly was an excellent parliamentarian.
Senator Norris asked about item No. 52; I have no plan to take any debate on that at present. Senator O'Keeffe asked about money lending, a matter of much concern, but it seems there are no plans for a debate on that although it might be suitable for a debate on the Adjournment at some occasion and perhaps Senator O'Keeffe might consider this. Senator Lydon and Senator Hederman referred to the late Senator Bryan Alton and she commented on item No. 66. Senator Lydon also referred to the television cameras. I have noted what Senator Mooney said in regard to the debate on item No. 66.
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