Wednesday, 11 December 1991
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Fallon: It is proposed today to take Item No. 2 Milk, (Regulation of Supply) (No. 2) Bill, 1991, Second Stage, to be completed by 6 p.m. There will be a sos from 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. From 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. we will take the Independent motion, No. 58. At 8 p.m. we will take Item No. 3—the Order in draft in respect of the Regional Fisheries Boards (Postponement of Elections) Order, 1991.
Mrs. Doyle: I would like to ask the Leader of the House if he would arrange for statements in this House before Christmas on the outcome of the Maastricht Summit. I know we gave two days last week to a discussion on developments in the EC but we cannot beat our breasts and say we gave too much time to it as this is perhaps the most important European Summit meeting that has taken place since we joined the EC many years ago. Perhaps the Leader of the House could arrange with the Minister for Foreign Affairs — I accept the Taoiseach is a very busy man with many demands on him — for a statement reporting to this House on the outcome of the summit and a response by the leaders of the various groups. I appreciate that another lengthy debate probably would not be possible logistically this side of Christmas.
May I also ask the Leader of the House if he could arrange to bring to a conclusion early in the New Year the debate on Seanad reform? On this side we will be prepared to come back two days earlier to give time to a most important topic. There is a danger that the whole issue of Seanad reform which concerns all of us in this House will be used as filler material when Ministers are not available or when we are waiting for Bills from the Dáil or whatever. I would like to see it spot-lighted, given its own scheduling and that we would complete the debate and decide where we will bring the issues to from there, whether to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges or a special committee. We can decide ourselves as to how we will handle the most important issues that have come up. I request that  at least two days is given to that debate early in the New Year to conclude it.
May I also ask the Leader of the House whether all Stages or just Second Stage of the Criminal Damages Bill is envisaged to be scheduled for tomorrow. On this side we will only accept taking Second Stage, because this is a most important piece of legislation and we would hate to find any effort to rush through Committee and Report Stages all in the one day. To be meaningful, when dealing with legislation we should wait until Second Stage is completed before contemplating amendments for Committee and Report Stages. It makes nonsense of the role of the Seanad, and indeed the role of the Oireachtas, to rush all Stages through. I would like confirmation from the Leader that we will take only Second Stage tomorrow.
Mr. O'Toole: I have a number of issues to raise. We had a very full debate last week on Maastricht and I disagree somewhat with the request made by the main Opposition party. What we need now is for the Minister to come back to this House and to report on what happened in Maastricht. There should then be a full debate on it. This is far more involved than something we can deal with by way of statements. We need a full debate on the outcome. We know very little about it except what has been reported in newspapers over the past few days. It is critically important that we now tease it out and see exactly where we are going and assess the implications. I would disagree somewhat with Senator Doyle, although I presume she was making the proposal on the basis that that perhaps was the best available. I think it is far too important to allow it to be reduced to statements. We need a full debate on where we are now and putting on the record what our Government have achieved there. There is no other way of receiving this information except trying to glean information from the media.
May I take it that the Leader of the House intends putting a guillotine on the Milk Bill at 6 p.m. or that he would hope  to put it to a vote at 6 p.m.? I notice from the nod by the Government Whip that he does not intend doing that, so that question is answered.
On the question of a programme of legislation, I have asked again for an outline of the programme of legislation which will be dealt with by this House between now and the Christmas recess. I think we should have that now. The Leader should indicate to us on which days of Christmas week he intends that we should sit. There is only Monday and Tuesday, because it would be unacceptable to sit on Christmas Day. We should be careful about that. I am not sure why my colleagues are laughing. I presume it is the holiday spirit.
Mr. O'Toole: We have had no indication when the Appropriation Bill, which has to be discussed before Christmas, will be dealt with. It normally takes at least a full day to discuss that Bill, even in the truncated form we have dealt with it over the past number of years when we come back to it in January. In any event this House needs a certain amount of time to deal with it and this year, with the mid-year changes in the different Departments, it is something that will require more discussion.
I also ask the Leader of the House when it is envisaged that the B & I Bill will be dealt with in this House? My understanding is that the Government are required to have this dealt with before the Christmas recess. In the light of this fist in the face of the workers and management of B & I, we should have adequate discussion of the Bill here.
Finally, may I ask the Leader of the House if he has any intention of allowing this House to debate the disgraceful and disastrous proposals of Government about the non-implementation of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, which we discussed in this House less than a month ago to words of sweet wisdom and full support from the Fianna Fáil benches. I would now ask  that the Leader of the House indicate to us that his party will stand firm on the commitments solemnly entered into in all the different areas of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and insist that they are put into operation.
Dr. Upton: First, I support the calls for a debate or statements on the Maastricht Summit, which would be useful and desirable. Secondly, can I seek an assurance from the Leader of the House that he is not going to guillotine Second Stage debate on the Milk (Regulation of Supply) Bill, 1991, this afternoon? May I also ask the Leader of the House if he has any further information in relation to the use of strychnine and its ban in this country since I raised this matter with him last week?
Finally, may I again ask the Leader of the House if he would be prepared to make time available for a debate or for statements on the present situation in Teagasc which seems now to be facing destruction? Certainly, it seems as if the institute at Grange is going to be converted into one of those country clubs where wealthy gentlemen play golf on weekday afternoons.
Mr. D. Kiely: In view of the recent statements made by the Aer Lingus pilot's association and by Board Fáilte about the status and the possible overflying of Shannon Airport, I wish to ask the Leader of the House to have in the very near future a full debate in this House in order to let the people in the mid-west region know exactly where they stand. There are many conflicting reports and people in the mid-west region would like a full debate in the House. I would also like to ask the Leader of the House if he would consider bringing the Minister for Energy to this House to let us know exactly about the recommissioning of the Tarbert power station, units one and two, and when those units will come back into operation. Could he emphasise to the Minister and to the ESB that when employment is being created it will be taken locally from the north Kerry region where it is badly needed?
Professor Raftery: We have debated many important issues in this House but I think the single most important issue facing this country is unemployment and I would like to ask the Leader of the House to have a full-scale debate on that subject. It is the cause of so many of our problems in the country today that it is worthy of consideration by us.
I would also like to support the call by Senator Upton for a debate on Teagasc. From what I hear in recent days it is now clear that the Government are about to destroy Teagasc by stealth. Most of the centres for research are about to be closed; this week the decision is to be made, or at least the initial discussion on the decision. This is the arm of research and development for our agriculture. We are being told day in and day out that we must diversify and cut costs, but to do that we need research and development. Therefore, I would like to ask the Leader if we could have a debate on this most important issue in the very near future.
Mr. McKenna: I ask the Leader of the House to express to the Minister with responsibility for Sport or whoever is the relevant authority the grave concern of this House at the stupid decision of the GAA authorities to ban a unique occasion at the RDS which was to take place next Sunday, at the fact that an organisation which has contributed so much to the youth and the general life of this country should have — I have to say it — a certain number of morons with their heads buried deeply in the sand making decisions like that. It is important that I express the concern I have that an association that should be doing so much to encourage the co-operation of young people in all facts of Irish life should make a stupid and appalling decision like that. As a lifetime member of the GAA and a former player of the GAA I am absolutely ashamed and appalled at the decision they have taken. It is putting back the unification of this country in all its facets, the bringing together of our young people——
I support Senator Kiely in relation to the status of Shannon Airport and ask the Leader to request the Minister to reaffirm the Government's commitment to the status of Shannon in view of the recent onslaught by the chief executive of Board Fáilte and by the airline pilots' Association. Shannon as an international airport is of vital importance to the nation, and if we are serious about regional development we have to ensure that the status of Shannon remains intact.
Mrs. Hederman: In relation to the Statements on the Role of the Seanad, on the Order Paper, may I ask the Leader if the decision was taken by this House that we would specifically exclude the Minister from coming along to hear those debates thereby limiting ourselves to trivial internal housekeeping changes where what is needed is a fundamental reform of this House? Would it be possible, even at this late stage, to have the Minister here? Our motion No. 53 would require changes in legislation which would necessitate the presence of the Minister here. Could that be done when we get around again to discussing the role of the Seanad?
With regard to Senator Raftery's request for a debate on unemployment, our motion for tonight, No. 58, which states in its final paragraph “for the benefit of the Irish people” will include a contribution to the whole problem of unemployment.
Mr. Dardis: I would like to advise the Leader and Members that I share the concerns expressed across the floor about the future of Teagasc and its research centres. It is worth pointing out that these are management proposals and they have to go through several stages before they are implemented. However, it would be  useful if we had a debate on these matters here. I would certainly take the view that the £1.5 million which was spent on Grange was money well invested in the beef industry and it reaps a benefit many times more than that. From that point of view I would like to have that debate.
I would also share the view that it would be useful to have a report on the Maastricht Summit. The Minister for Agriculture and Food reported earlier in the year when we debated agriculture. While I am not sure that we need statements, a report would be very useful. We might be able to establish when the United Kingdom decides that it will join the Community, after all.
The final question to the Leader is if he could advise us as to what his plans are to take the later Stages of the Milk (Regulation of Supply) Bill? When we have completed Second Stage, what are his plans for the other Stages?
Mr. Costello: May I ask the Leader his intentions in relation to the Criminal Damages Bill tomorrow? Second Stage and Committee Stage should not be taken on the same day and we should establish that as policy for all future legislation that comes before this House.
I would like to echo the sentiments of Senator McKenna in relation to the GAA. I suggest that the Leader of the House would indicate to the Minister with responsibility for Sport the view expressed publicly — and it is certainly a view I would share — that it was an absolutely backwards decision of the GAA to——
An Cathaoirleach: That matter is out of order. I have informed Senator McKenna of the fact that he was not conforming with the requirements of the Order of Business. I must say the same to Senator Costello.
An Cathaoirleach: The Leader of the House can do nothing about it. I suggest to the Senator that he would put a question to the Leader rather than some of the questions that have been put to him which were really asking him to deliver messages to other people.
The most important issue facing us at present is unemployment. We should have an urgent debate on that matter, as Senator Raftery said. Perhaps we could phrase it along the more positive lines suggested by Senator Harte in the past — that it be a debate on employment rather than unemployment because we should be directing our attention towards that aspect.
The Minister should come in to this House immediately in order to report on the events which took place in Maastricht over the past couple of days. It is essential that we have a debate on this immediately. I would prefer if we had a full-scale debate first thing in the New Year after there has been time to reflect on it and to evaluate the implications, particularly the implications of the British derogation in relation to the Social Charter and social policy at the present time. That may have very far-reaching implications for us. We should deal with that at a fairly early stage, but I would suggest that it would be better that a full-scale debate would take place in the New Year.
Finally, will the Leader of the House allow a debate to take place in relation to the situation in Carysfort? That has been going on for a considerable length of time. All sorts of allegations have been  made in the other House, and publicly, in relation to the use of public funds.
Mr. Lanigan: Both matters I want to raise are related to sport. I was not going to raise the second matter, but I think that if we are going to discuss the recent decision of the GAA not to get involved——
Mr. Lanigan: I am going to ask a question because it is related to the other issue. The amount of moneys expended on the provision of sporting facilities in this country will have to be co-ordinated in the future. The GAA, the Rugby Football Union, the NACA, the BLE — everybody will have to get involved. I ask the Leader of the House to have a comprehensive discussion in this House on the provision of sporting facilities. It was stated here today that the GAA have their heads in the sand on this occasion — and I agree they have their heads in the sand — but are not the only sporting organisation in this country about whom that comment could be made. We have to get into the modern age. We must  provide the necessary comprehensive facilities. There is no point in pointing the finger on this occasion at the GAA. I could point my finger at the IFRU and the FAI.
Mr. Lanigan: Poor Danny Lynch was thrown to the wolves. I ask the Leader of the House to arrange for a comprehensive discussion here on the future of sporting facilities in the context of the national lottery and of the moneys——
An Cathaoirleach: The manner in which the Senator has approached this matter indicates clearly that he is out of order. Quite candidly, I must remind Members that a number of weeks ago there was criticism over the length of time spent on the Order of Business. I have not witnessed much co-operation here today in trying to minimise that amount of time to get to the other serious business of legislation.
Mr. Lanigan: I have never noticed in my years here that there was any problem on the Order of Business. I am asking for a comprehensive discussion on the provision of sporting facilities and the amount of money expended. There has to be cohesion among the various sporting bodies——
Mr. Lanigan: I ask for this debate in view of the problems that have arisen in two major areas of sport in this country. When I talk of sport I speak also of agribusiness, of horse breeding and of greyhound breeding. Denis Brosnan has stated quite categorically that the horse breeding industry in this country is in a chaotic state.
Mr. Lanigan: Shall I say the new horse trainer from County Kilkenny who has been elected chairman? The horse breeding industry is of vital importance to the country. Greyhound breeding is also of major importance.
Mr. Neville: I would like to ask the Leader of the House if the new family home protection Bill will be introduced to this House in view of the decision of the Supreme Court to deny automatic right of the family home to a wife. It specifically relates to situations where the family home has broken up. It again highlights the failure of the Oireachtas to deal with changing social realities. It is similar to last week when this House could not accept the Suicide Bill. I urge the Leader of the House to ask the Minister for Justice to introduce the new family Bill on our return in January.
Mrs. Honan: I would like to ask the Leader of the House to ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Communications. Deputy Brennan, to come to this House as soon as possible to clarify Government policy on the overflying of  Shannon Airport. We have had two statements from the heads of two State-sponsored bodies, statements which, I understand, were contrary to Government policy. What is Government policy? He does not know what Government policy is because he has never been near Government.
Mrs. Honan: Will the Leader ask the Minister to clarify the position whether international airport status is to be left to Shannon? Has he talked to the two heads of the State-sponsored bodies who seem to be taking a stance which is contrary to that of the Government?
Mr. B. Ryan: I agree with Senator Honan. I wish the Minister would be as firm in dealing with the two State-sponsored bodies who want to change Shannon's status as he apparently was with B & I yesterday when he told us that the board of a semi-state company were outraged by his behaviour.
Mr. B. Ryan: I appeal to the Leader of the House to carry this message to the Minister who is supposed to take some cognisance of this House: he should be consistent and if he is going to push some State bodies around he should push the big ones as well as the ones in a more vulnerable position. Since Senator O'Keeffe seems to be going off it a little——
Mr. B. Ryan: I repeat yet again that there is ample evidence that the banking system places a major constraint on small businesses. There seems to be an extraordinary reluctance in the Houses of the Oireachtas to deal seriously with the appalling nature of the Irish banking system. It seems to be something that must be postponed, delayed or put to one side, as if they must be treated with deference.
Mr. B. Ryan: When will we have a full scale debate on the Irish banking system, not just on the report of the Ombudsman for credit institutions because that would be far too limited? What we need to know is why the banks deal so badly with small business. I will not venture into the GAA area.
The other issue that was raised with some vigour is in relation to Teagasc. Do the Government propose to appoint a new Minister of State for science and technology? Is that area of research going to do down the tube along with agricultural research? It appears that no decision has been taken yet to replace that.
I support Senator Raftery's request for a debate on unemployment. It is the biggest, most invisible and under-discussed problem in society. All of us in politics, in the media and every where else are, by definition, not unemployed. It does not impinge directly on anybody who is in a position to inform opinion with the result that it is left off the agenda. This House could give a good example to the nation by taking this problem seriously  and by having not a three-hour or a six-hour debate but an open-ended debate in which every Member of this House——
Mr. B. Ryan: Could we have, in the New Year when we have time, a long, open-ended and serious debate on unemployment, the solutions to it and what this nation should be doing about it? I do not want a two-hour or one day debate. The quarter of a million people and their families deserve——
Mr. B. Ryan: I did not mention anything other than the reasons why I wanted a debate. I would like a specific answer from the Leader on that issue. On the Shannon stop-over, I ask Members opposite to clarify whether this is yet another core value and if they are going to capitulate on this like they did on all the others, would they let us know now so we do not have to wait six months for the capitulation?
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: The issue of sport and leisure is extremely important. It has major job creation implications. Will the Leader allow a debate in the near future on the cohesion, co-ordination and promotion of sport, given that tourism and sport and leisure activities are so important to the employment prospects of many people? It would be a most appropriate subject to debate in this House.
Many Senators looked for a debate on the Maastricht Summit. I wish to congratulate the Taoiseach, on behalf of this  House, particularly on the cohesion protocol which has been included and which will be of immense benefit to this country. Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to read the Allowances to Members Acts, 1938 to 1983, and the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act? Given that the Bill has implications for both Houses of the Oireachtas, particularly because it concerns the pensions of Members in this House and because there appear to be certain provisions which would not be conducive——
Mrs. Jackman: I join with those who expressed concern regarding the recent Supreme Court judgment and the need for spouses to be protected in relation to the family home. This will be extremely complex legislation. Despite the Minister for Justice's point that he would introduce the Bill as soon as possible, I would not want to see it rushed through. I ask the Leader of the House to ensure that it is initiated here so that the debate will be worthwhile. We do not even know the definition of “the family home”.
We were told we would get the long promised Green Paper on Education before Christmas as it was published and ready since September. How soon can we expect it? In relation to what other Senators have said regarding the status of Shannon, we need a commitment from the Minister because there are so many conflicting rumours, statements and woolly thinking that nobody knows quite what is happening. We do not want to hear about things happening during the Christmas recess when we may not be as vigilant as we should be. I would like the Minister to clarify that he is retaining the status of Shannon.
Mr. Hourigan: There are four questions I would like to ask. The first is in relation to Teagasc, the organisation which deals with research and advice on the agricultural front. We know that agriculture has had major difficulties in recent times and that highlights the need for an in-depth investigation into the work of Teagasc and the need for it to be in good shape. Could we have a debate on Teagasc to ensure that we have a dynamic agriculture in the future? What is the position with regard to the status of Shannon? Like other Senators I am confused about policy in relation to it and I would like if the Leader could establish, by way of a debate in this House or otherwise, what exactly is the position with regard to the status of Shannon. My understanding from Government statements and from the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications is that the status will be left unchanged. Those in the mid-west and the south west——
Mr. E. Ryan: I support Senator Raftery's call for a full debate on unemployment. It is the most serious problem which the country faces. I will not go over the reasons as I am sure they are obvious to everybody. A debate on unemployment would be very good and any light it could throw on this problem would be welcomed by everybody.
I support Senators McKenna, Costello and Lanigan in calling for a debate on the funding of sporting activities around the country because of the decision by the GAA not to play at the RDS. It  seems very strange that the GAA found it acceptable to play in that bastion of soccer, Wembley Stadium, some years ago——
Pól Ó Foighil: Ba mhaith liom a fhiafraí den Cheannaire, más rud é nach gcríochnófar Bille an Bhainne tráthnóna, nach ndéanfar aon guillotining ar dhíospóireacht na tairiscinte a bhaineann leis an ordú um thoghcháin do na boird iascaigh réigiúnacha a iarchur. Tá sé sin le plé anocht freisin. Ba mhaith liom a chinntiú nach gcuirfear sinn as ord ag a hocht a chlog mura mbíonn an díospóireacht críochnaithe nó mura mbíonn sé tógtha ag an am sin. Chomh maith leis sin, tá mórán ráite anseo inniu faoi stádas Aerfort na Sionna. Tá ochtar tar éis labhairt air agus tá tacaíocht le fáil ó chuile thaobh den Teach. Níl sé ceart a rá nach bhfuil daoine ar a shon. Tá mise ar choiste na Sionna agus tá baill de chuid Fhianna Fáil ar an gcoiste chomh láidir céanna ar a shon is atá Comhaltaí an Tí seo. Táimid uilig aontaithe ar rud amháin agus is é sin nach gcaillfimid Aerfort na Sionna agus nach n-athrófar a stádas.
Tá mé ag iarraidh ar an Cheannaire, agus tá sé léirithe anseo inniu ag ochtar a labhair faoin gceist, go gcuirfimis in iúl don Aire Turasóireachta, Iompair agus Cumarsáide, chomh láidir is tá ar ár gcumas, nach mian linn aon athrú ar stádas Aerfort na Sionna. Arís, sa chomhthéacs sin — mar baineann sé le hiarthar na hÉireann — tá díospóireacht iarrtha anseo agamsa go minic chun go mbeimis in ann chuile ghné de drochstaid iarthar na tíre a phlé sa Seanad. Táimid ag caint faoi Aerfort na Sionna inniu, táimid ag caint faoi Iarnród Éireann——
Pól Ó Foighil: Tá mé ag fiafraí den Cheannaire arís an mbeadh sé sásta, i gcomhthéacs a bhfuil ag tarlú in iarthar na hÉireann, go mbeadh díospóireacht anseo faoin dífhostaíocht sa tír seo agus freisin faoin dóigh a chuirfeadh sé as d'fheirmeoirí, go mórmhór in iarthar na hÉireann, dá gcuirfí deireadh le Teagasc agus cúraimí uile Theagaisc in iarthar na hÉireann.
Mr. Fallon: A number of Senators, including Senator Doyle, asked for statements in the House on the Maastricht Summit and I will endeavour to arrange that for next week. Senators Doyle, Hederman and others asked about continuing the Seanad reform debate. The intention is to continue with that but we will not have time for it before we break for Christmas. We will come back to it in the new session. The original proposal, despite what was felt by other Senators, is that initially the report will come to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges who will take it from there. The setting up of a committee is a matter for them.
Senator O'Toole asked for a debate on the Maastricht talks and asked what Bill had to be concluded before the end of this session. He also asked about the Milk (Regulation of Supply) (No. 2) Bill. We propose to debate it until 6 p.m. and if it is not concluded we will deal with it next week. We will not conclude Second Stage this evening if there are sufficient speakers. He also asked for a debate on the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. I have no proposal for such a debate.
The B & I Line Bill, the Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill and the Appropriation Bill will be taken next week. The intention is to pass the Bill as we are obliged to do and to have one speaker from each side. We can come back as we have done in other years to debate the Bill in January.
A number of speakers asked for a  debate on Teagasc. I have no plans for that before Christmas. In regard to that and other matters raised by Senators, there is provision in Standing Orders for matters to be raised on the Adjournment, in Private Members' time and under Standing Order 29. The debate on the Appropriation Bill has been described in the past as an anything goes debate and unemployment, the banking system and many other issues could be raised then.
Senator Upton asked about Teagasc and he also referred to the ban in the use of strychnine. The position in regard to the strychnine ban at the moment is that two draft orders were submitted to the EC Commission in September 1991. The orders, when introduced, will prohibit the use of strychnine for agricultural purposes and the storage, supply or sale of strychnine. The first will be signed by the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the second by the Minister for Health. The EC Commission has three months in which to notify other member states and to make a decision. This three month period will expire on 17 December 1991 following which a Commission decision will be made. We do not anticipate any difficulty in this area. In the meantime, the Department of Justice have been requested by phone, and in writing, to instruct the gardaí to refrain from issuing permits for the supply of strychnine to farmers.
The five main importers of strychnine have been notified of the impending plan and have been requested to stop imports. When the orders are completed the farmers, through the local authorities and health boards, through pharmacies operating in the health board areas, will be asked to hand over unused supplies of strychnine.
Senator Upton asked about Teagasc and I have replied to that; this would be appropriate for mention on the Appropriation Bill or in the other ways I have mentioned. I will bring to the attention of the Minister, Deputy Brennan, the concern of a number of Senators in relation to the stop-over at Shannon. I will bring to the attention of the Minister  for Energy Deputy Kiely's concern regarding Tarbert station.
Senator McKenna's point was not appropriate to the Order of Business. I noted Senator Dardis' comments on Teagasc. He asked about the Milk (Regulation of Supply) (No. 2) Bill, and, as I said, we will not finish it before Christmas. We will start it this afternoon and if we conclude Second Stage by 6 o'clock, that will be all right, but if not, we will continue it some other day.
Senator Costello raised matters which were not appropriate to the Order of Business. Senator Lanigan asked for a debate on the funding of sporting groups. That is something we can think about in the New Year; it might well be an appropriate subject for a debate. He asked about the horse breeding industry. We had a major discussion on the Kilannin report. This and the greyhound industry are issues we can discuss in the New Year.
Senators Neville and others asked about the Family Home Protection Bill. I understand that the Minister has indicated legislation is forthcoming and the draftsmen are working on it. Senator Brendan Ryan touched on matters which I indicated are appropriate to the Appropriation Bill or Private Members' Time. He looked for an open ended debate on unemployment. We can consider this in the new session.
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