Thursday, 6 February 1992
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mrs. Doyle: We have agreed to the change in the Order of Business today to facilitate the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party in the very important task before them this afternoon. All I can do on behalf of my colleagues on this side is to wish them well in their important deliberations, important not just to themselves but to the nation.
We again find ourselves trying, albeit very inadequately, to express our sympathy on the occasion of the carnage in the north of our island yesterday. We have run out of adequate words, if there are adequate words, to express what we all feel. All we can do yet again, through you, a Chathaoirligh, is to ask the Acting Leader of the House to recognise that it is long past the time when this Chamber should at least devote one day to express our views and to sympathise with those 26 immediate families, and God knows how many others, who have been affected in the past five weeks, and the 12 families tragically bereaved this week alone. I plead, through you, a Chathaoirligh, with the Acting Leader to allow time next week, if at all possible, even if we have to sit an extra day — I do not think anybody would mind being generous with their time on this issue — to debate this issue. If this Chamber is to mean anything, if it is to reflect the values for which it was established, we have to immediately give our time and deliberation to the tragedy in the north of our island.
 I believe Senator Doyle has eloquently and validly put the case that we in the institutions of democracy cannot remain silent about Northern Ireland. Effectively, it is creating a situation where the only voice that is heard is the voice of terror. As Senator Doyle said, the circumstances can be organised, we can have an extra day's sitting or we can change our business. All of us, whatever our views, have an obligation to challenge ourselves and our positions on Northern Ireland. There are differing views on what should be done next. All of us have an obligation to challenge ourselves and the only way we can do that in a way that is consistent with democracy is through the use of the institutions of democracy. I appeal to the Acting Leader to allow us to have an open-ended, serious discussion on Northern Ireland with sufficient time given for those who wish to speak.
While it does not have the immediate urgency of Northern Ireland because of recent events I repeat my plea to have a debate on unemployment. The reason I raise this again is simply to make it clear that I am not talking about a debate on industrial policy, I am talking about the 250,000 unemployed people, not what we can do for them over a period of two or five or ten years but what could be done about the way they are treated now. That is why I want the issue of unemployment and unemployed discussed, not industrial policy, not growth prospects, not anything else but what happens every day, every week, to 250,000 people in this country.
Dr. Upton: May I also be associated with the statements in relation to the terrible events which took place in Norhern Ireland yesterday. Again, I appeal to the Acting Leader of the House to allow the debate on Northern Ireland to go ahead to the extent that anything can be done now. We need to look towards political solution and this Chamber might as well put in its tuppence worth as far as that goes. I do not want to be simple-minded or foolish or suggest  for one minute that we here will come up with anything which will radically change things. Nonetheless, we should put in our bit and hope that something can come out of it.
In relation to the Order of Business in general, may I ask the Acting Leader of the House if there has been any change in relation to Senator O'Keeffe's request for a debate on the banking system? It seems to have vanished and I am wondering whether the whole idea has been forgotten about.
Miss Keogh: I, too, condemn the appalling atrocity which occurred yesterday — the latest in a long line of horrific events in Northern Ireland. Even if we do not have a full debate, we should have the opportunity to make statements on the present position in Northern Ireland and on possible solutions and I ask the Acting Leader to facilitate us next week, or very soon. I have said before it is the victims, the families, the bereaved, who are so open and willing to forgive while the people of violence — particularly the men of violence — continue in their misguided efforts to arrive at their solution to the problem. They have to realise there are no winners. I agree with my colleague in asking the Acting Leader for a debate, or at least statements, on this issue.
Professor Murphy: Although I am a little disappointed at the shortening of today's sitting like Senator Doyle, I understand the reason for it: it is in the national interest and not simply a matter of a party convenience. Since it concerns us all, will those who think of him today, a little prayer for Albert say.
I share my colleagues' views on the urgency for a debate on Northern Ireland. The accumulation of horrors in the last few days has made an impact even on the most apathetic of southern. consciences. Senator Upton is right that what we say here may have limited effect but the whole point is our sense of priorities; we should be dropping everything  else to give expression to our opinions on the importance of this question. May I suggest to the Acting Leader that a day next week, perhaps Thursday, might be suitable? What will give it added urgency and added significance is that by then we will have a new Government and a new Taoiseach whose views on Northern Ireland are not very well known at the moment. There are all kinds of things which would make a debate very significant at the earliest opportunity next week.
Mr. Norris: I join with previous speakers who called for a debate on Northern Ireland because it is important if this House is to have any relevance at all. I and many others have been calling for a debate for the last eight months at least and we have been told such a debate would exacerbate the situation. It is impossible to see how the situation could be further exacerbated. Statements are made every day of the week from the barrel of a gun. We must be allowed to make statements in this House.
I know you would not allow me to make a speech, a Chathaoirligh, but as a member of the Church of Ireland, may I say how very much the balanced but passionate comments of Cardinal Daly have been appreciated by our community, North and South? Echoing what Senator Keogh said, it is the grossest impertinence and blasphemy for the UFF to use the word “Teebane” in their statement. I absolutely deplore that. It is outrageous and cannot be tolerated. I hope the Acting Leader will be able to give us a specific date for a debate on the North but I suppose we must also deal with the practical realities of the Seanad.
On a somewhat lighter note, is it correct that a Member of this House voted twice yesterday on different sides of the Bill and, if this luxury was afforded, may I be permitted to have it as well because there are occasions on which I would like to equivocate with my vote?
Mr. McKenna: May I agree with the sentiments expressed by all sides of the House in relation to the absolutely horrific events that are taking place in Northern Ireland and call on the Acting Leader to initiate a debate on Northern Ireland at the earliest possible opportunity?
What is happening in Northern Ireland at the moment is inconceivable. The depth of barbarity to which they have sunk is absolutely horrendous. Those of us who live a distance from those tragic events cannot comprehend the conditions in which the people in Northern Ireland are living. Sides have become polarised to such an extent that the game appears to be which side will kill the most. It is high time we took this seriously. Whatever contribution this House can make we have to make it our priority and ensure that we are making an effort to solve the tragic events that are taking place there.
Mr. Farrell: I came on the scene of a shooting at Belleek on my way from Enniskillen and saw a grusome sight. I have attended a number of funerals of murdered people in the North. I would certainly welcome a debate on Northern Ireland, but honestly, I do not know what good such a debate will do. I have met both sides and I have done quite a lot of business with many people in the North over the years. On a business level they are very nice people but when they get into their various ghettoes they become savages. I do not know how we would talk to people with that mentality.
I agree with Cardinal Daly when he said that until we get all the subversives to sit down at a table we will not have peace. How we are going to achieve that I do not know. Is there anybody who could use their influence to try to get people to sit down and talk? If not, this very sad situation will continue.
Mr. Farrell: I support the call for a  discussion on unemployment. As one who has been self-employed for many years and has created an environment in which there are over 200 people employed in my own village, I feel I could make a contribution on how jobs could be created. It amuses and fascinates me to hear so many people speaking about talks on unemployment. At a meeting I attended in Sligo, not one person at the top table created a job for themselves. They were all in State employment. It is the people who create jobs, and can create jobs, who should be listened to and not those in State jobs telling others what to do.
An Cathaoirleach: We are not having a debate. Because of the barbarous acts in the North, I am allowing an element of flexibility on the Order of Business, but I ask Senators, if possible, to speed up things so that we can conclude the Order of Business.
Mr. Neville: I, too, would like to express my revulsion at what happened in Northern Ireland over the past few weeks and sympathise particularly with the majority of people on both sides of the community, who are sometimes tarnished by events there. Most people in Northern Ireland are very concerned because of their immediacy to the problems and we should empathise with them. I would like to add my voice to the calls for a debate on the issue.
Would the Acting Leader consider a debate on the Law Reform Commission consultation paper on the civil law of defamation, an area in which you, a Cathaoirligh, are very interested? In fact, you gave what I would refer to as half a commitment before Christmas to have a debate on this issue and I ask the Acting Leader if he would consider having such a debate in the near future.
Mr. Mooney: I join in the expressions of outrage and sympathy and I would also like to join with my colleagues on this side of the House in supporting the call for a debate on the Northern Ireland  situation. As someone who comes from a Border county, I feel it is incumbent on me, like my colleague, Senator Farrell to express my views. Over the past few weeks and months opinions have been expressed in this House which would reflect, I would like to think those of the community at large.
It seems to me that there are three attitudes to Northern Ireland now on this island. There is the attitude of those who live there, there is what you would call the attitude of those of us who live along the Border counties and there is the attitude of those further south. I would like to ask that perhaps this House, apart from its ritual and very important expressions of outrage whenever events such as those in the past few days take place in the North, would also perhaps attempt to make some contribution to helping to solve the political problem that is at the heart of Northern Ireland.
I was disappointed to hear my distinguished colleagues on the other side of the House crying “shame” and “lock them up” when Senator Farrell supported the expressions of hope made by Cardinal Daly yesterday because at the end of the day when all the fighting, all the bombing and all the killing is done ther must be discussion and dialogue. I believe it is how we get to that point——
Mr. Mooney: This is how we are misinterpreted whenever people like me make this comment, coming from a Border county with deep roots in Northern Ireland on both sides of the community. Ultimately the people of this island must sit down and talk together. We can agree and disagree as to how that is arrived at but ultimately we must sit down and talk. I believe this House could have some role to play, albeit a limited role. I ask how many Members of this House go to the North? How many Members of this House——
Mr. Mooney: How many Members consciously have dialogue with both sides of the community in Northern Ireland? I ask that in this House some formula may be arrived at, apart from the regular debates we have, important as they are, that we might have a more tangible contribution to make in the exchanging of views across the divide. Senator Farrell made the point, and I will stand firmly on it, that there must be dialogue at the end of the day. This is a political problem, not a military problem, not a sectarian problem. It is essentially a political problem that must be worked at between the people on this island and between Britain and Ireland. I make that plea in the context of those who make statements about Northern Ireland. After all the essential denunciations of outrages such as that in Teebane and elsewhere, we should never forget at the end of the day we must have dialogue to solve this problem.
Mr. Hourigan: I, too, would like to be associated very positively with the words of condemnation and sympathy on the events in recent days and weeks in Northern Ireland. We should be conscious of the danger that the escalation of violence there in recent weeks may lead us to a state of civil war. For that reason a debate in this House, if it could contribute in some small way, would do a good job to help to alleviate the problem in Northern Ireland. I would again ask that we have such a debate at an early date. I would also like, a Chathaoirligh, to ask the Acting Leader if we could have an early debate on the very serious matter of employment.
Mrs. Jackman: I would like to add my support in condemning the barbaric and atrocious acts in Northern Ireland in the past few months and to ask for a debate. I would also like to wish our Fianna Fáil colleagues well this afternoon in their deliberations.
Mr. O'Keeffe: I would just say how much we appreciate the good wishes for the election of our new leader this afternoon. I suppose there is a lot to be said for Senator Ó Foighil when he commented there is a conversion on that side and we are very glad of that emerging from the Fine Gael side of the House——
Mr. O'Keeffe: I would also like to be associated with the concern expressed here this morning about events in the North and I would like to put on record my deep feelings particularly for the families of those people who have been affected by the tragedy that is Northern Ireland. A debate on Northern Ireland in this House is very important. However, in having that debate we should be very careful about the type of language used so that we do not add further to the misery that is already part and parcel of the lives of the people in Northern Ireland. It is my view that as a result of the political vacuum that exists there at the moment intrinsic evil has emerged and it is incumbent on all persons involved in the political process and otherwise to sit down together in the hope that they will bring peace to that part of our country.
May I also ask the Acting Leader of the House if it is his intention, given that unemployment is a major factor in this country today, to allow a debate on the Culliton report. Perhaps he would combine the debate with the debate on the Culliton report and let us have an early date for a discussion on that topic. It impinges on all our lives and it is important that this House should be seen to address the issue.
Mr. O'Keeffe: You will notice we are  getting a lot of fax sheets from the banks in recent months. I would say, therefore, it is appropriate, now that the budget is out of the way, that people in this House should be given an opportunity to address again what is in our view and the view of most of the people here a contributing factor to the unemployment situation. I urge the Acting Leader very strongly to allow the House to discuss the banks issue at a very early date. In fact, when you are talking about reform of the Seanad——
Mr. O'Keeffe: I am asking this question: given that we have had so many people speaking on the reform of the Seanad, given that a number of contributors have suggested we should have statements here which would not require the presence of Ministers, perhaps some of these reforms should be brought in at a very early stage so that issues such as the banks and others could be debated as early as possible.
In the last session the Leader of the House was asked a number of questions about Bills that were to come before this House. Can he give us an idea at this stage what Bills are likely to be on the agenda for this session?
Mrs. Hederman: I hope you will not be unduly tough with me when you do revert back because I will not be making a speech this morning. Sadly I do not think anything we say in this House on the horrific events in the North of Ireland will make one jot of difference. I join  with the other speakers in condemning the terrible tragedies of the last few days.
I ask the Leader to confirm that the Second Stage of the Electoral (No. 2) Bill being taken today will not be finished today. I support other speakers who called for a debate on unemployment; on that occasion we might address ourselves to the extent to which the traditional political parties in this country have totally failed to make any impact on our three great tragedies — unemployment, emigration and the North of Ireland.
Mr. Lanigan: I join with the other speakers in the condemnation of attrocities taking place in the North. As has been said, there is very little we can do here but when people talk about the possibility of political dialogue in the North I do not believe we should consent to talk to those who perpetrated the murders yesterday and the murders in Teebane. These people are thugs, cowards, murderers; there is no word to condemn them sufficiently and they are not in any way political; they are pure and utter murderers. Under no circumstances should they be brought into political dialogue. Anybody who thinks these people will endeavour to advance the cause of peace in the North are whistling in the wind. It will not happen.
We are this morning making expressions of sympathy and of horror, and the press as usual do not see fit to be here. The fact that the press are not represented here is a disgrace about which the Cathaoirleach should complain. This is a House of the Oireachtas and the people have the right to a report of the proceedings. It is not the first time that the Press Gallery has been vacant but it should be the last time and I ask the Cathaoirleach to take up that issue.
I join with other Senators in appealing to the Acting Leader to have a debate on Northern Ireland. We should also have a debate on the banks. I was delighted to get the information note from the Irish  Banks Information Officer and going through the various rates being offered, found——
Mr. J. Ryan: I have been listening for some months to Members asking for a debate on the North. Like many in the South, I am far removed from the carnage but I remind Senator Mooney that many urban councils and county councils have twinned with districts in the North, and my area is one of them. We have reached a point with this carnage similar to the Mau Mau in the fifties in terms of frightening, murdering butchery, savagery and lack of Christian respect and mercy.
The two major items on our agenda at the moment are unemployment and the North of Ireland which is tottering on the brink of civil war which would have a tremendous effect on the whole country. I appreciate that unemployment is a very serious matter but in the present circumstances as the northern situation worsens daily, for me it is top of the priority list as it must be for all who wish for peace, and for a united country where people can live together and not be implicated in or witness the carnage we had yesterday.
Mr. Wright: I totally condemn the violence that has taken place recent in the  North of Ireland and sympathise with those who are suffering daily. This House should have the right to debate any issue whatever. Following the appointments next week, I will make every effort to arrange a debate on the issues outlined here today.
We will arrange through the Whips a debate on industrial policy and jobs and we can have a discussion on the banks at a future date. I thank the Whips for agreeing to the Order of Business today and to the changes. There is no sos today. This means there is a re-arrangement but no loss of time. I will pass on to my colleagues in the parliamentary party your good wishes on their selection this evening, and I have no doubt they will make the right choice.
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