Wednesday, 3 June 1992
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Wright: Before I give today's Order of Business may I suggest to the House that either tomorrow Thursday or Friday we would, by agreement, have statements for two hours on Maastricht. I suggest this to the leaders of the other  parties on the basis that I believe the House would be better informed by waiting 24 hours and we would have better statements. I hope that meets the requirements of those who have been in touch with my office regarding the situation.
The Order of Business for today is Item No. 1, the Fishery Harbour Centres (Amendment) Bill until 4.30 p.m., if that is agreed; from 4.30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Committee Stage of Item No. 2, the Electoral (No. 2) Bill, 1991; and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Motion 46.
Mr. Manning: I thank the Leader for the arrangements he is making for a debate on what is happening. I am one of those who do not believe that the skies will necessarily fall in because of what happened yesterday in Denmark. I think it is worth waiting a day or two until events have settled so that we can have a better informed discussion, and I am glad he has acceded to the request.
I also wish to raise the question of statements on Common Agricultural Policy reform. There are a number of speakers from this side who would like to get involved in that, and perhaps the Leader would leave that open ended rather than what was proposed originally.
Mr. Norris: I welcome the Leader's rapid response to the request for a debate on the fallout from the Danish decision. I had put in a section 29 motion, but in the light of the Leader's very amenable position I am happy to withdraw that. Could I ask that the debate might be for three hours and and that there could be a limit of ten minutes on each contribution? Also, if there is a ministerial response, that response should not be counted as part of the time of the debate, because there is a possibility that many people would wish to speak on this. Perhaps the Leader might consider holding the debate tomorrow rather than Friday so that the maximum number of people could participate.
Dr. Upton: I, too, welcome the initiative  taken by the Leader in making time available for this debate tomorrow. I also support Senator Norris when he calls for a limit of ten minutes on the time for each speaker. As far as I am concerned, that is adequate to make the points which should be made. It seems perfectly obvious that nobody in this country appears to have given any real consideration to what the implications of a “no” vote in Denmark would be, and it seems that broadly speaking that is true of what is happening in Europe as well.
Dr. Upton: Thank you, a Chathaoirligh. On an entirely different matter, may I ask the Leader what is the position in relation to the Control of Dogs Bill and when can we expect it to be debated in this House? I would also like to know what is the position in relation to the Bill to enact the provisions in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress to make grants available to mature students at third level.
Professor Murphy: I also support the suggestion for a ten minute limit which is adequate in the limited circumstances of our knowledge at the moment. Finally, may I ask the Leader to ensure that whoever is in the Minister's chair will give us the most up to date and authoritative legal opinion of where we stand now about the nature of the exercise we are going to undertake on 18 June.
I appeal to the Leader to provide an early opportunity for the House to debate the famine situation in a number of African countries. We have had a motion on the Order Paper for a considerable length of time. With all the other pressing problems in the world it is quite obvious that the people who have the facilities and the means of alleviating the massive starvation in a number of African countries are otherwise engaged. We must again bring to the attention of the EC, and indeed of the United Nations, the plight of those starving millions.
Mrs. Hederman: In regard to the Electoral (No. 2) Bill, we have had little short bites at it each time. There is, I hope, no truth in the rumour I heard circulating last week that a guillotine is going to be put on it. Could we have a reasonable time to debate it at some stage? It makes it difficult to debate the Bill if we just get an hour here, an hour there and a hour and a half somewhere else.
Mr. Costello: I support Senator Hederman in relation to the Electoral Bill. It is important that we get an opportunity to discuss it in depth for a substantial period. Today the proposal again is that we have an hour and a half for it. A good reasonable time to debate the Bill would be in order.
I welcome the proposal by the Leader of the House to hold a debate on Thursday or Friday on the Maastricht problem. It was the intention of the Labour Party to seek the suspension of the Standing Orders today so that the matter could be discussed at length. Now that he has voluntarily offered us a period for debating it I would like to see that extended for three hours and indeed a time limit of ten minutes for each speaker. It would now seem that the Maastricht Treaty on European Union is without legality, null and void——
Mr. Costello: It is important also to ask the Leader of the House for an opportunity of hearing the definitive legal opinion when we debate the matter so that we will know the Government's position after they have consulted with the heads of Government in Europe. We would then find out precisely the legality of our Referendum Bill and the proposal to hold the referendum on 18 June. It would seem foolhardy——
Mr. McKenna: I compliment the Leader of the House for arranging to hold a debate on the Maastricht situation tomorrow. I agree with the other speakers in suggesting that ten minutes be the maximum for contributions.
I wish to raise an entirely different matter. It may not be appropriate to raise it now but exceptional circumstances always arise. I refer to a former Senator of this House who has had an outstanding  achievement. I ask the Leader of the House to convey our sincere good wishes and congratulations to former Senator Brian Friel on a magnificent international achievement with “Dancing at Lughnasa”. It has reflected magnificently on this House.
Mr. Cullen: May I join with the other speakers in welcoming the opportunity to speak on the Maastricht Treaty and the situation that has now arisen. I ask the Leader to have that debate tomorrow. It would be helpful if legal opinion that may be made available to the Government today on where the Treaty stands was made available to us in this House before we commence the debate. I also agree with other speakers that ten minutes restriction will ensure that as many speakers as possible will get the opportunity to contribute. It is important that the Government give a very clear indication to the Irish people of their intentions——
Mr. Cullen: I am drawing my remarks to a conclusion. One of the reasons I wanted to say this is because I was awoken very early this morning by my Danish mother-in-law, who is involved in politics in Denmark. I want to send a message back to her that we have no intention of following the Danish lead in voting “No”.
Mr. McMahon: I welcome the decision of the Leader of the House to have a further discussion on Maastricht in the light of the new situation in which we now find ourselves. I join with my colleagues in asking that the contributions be confined to ten minutes but I appeal to the Leader to allow more than two hours. On that last occasion there were a number of Senators who wished to make a contribution but were denied the  opportunity of so doing because of the restriction of time for the debate — I think it was also two hours. I ask him to confine it to ten minute contributions but to leave it openended after that so that every Senator who wishes to make a contibution can so do. I also ask him to delay the debate until Friday or even next Tuesday because there is a strong possibility, in my opinion, that the Government may come around to the opinion of postponing the date of 18 June——
Mr. Wright: I thank the Members on the opposite side for their agreement to have a debate later in the week. Three hours is no problem for the debate, ten minutes per person can be arranged and also we will ensure that the Minister's time is not included in the three hours allowed. As the Foreign Affairs Ministers are meeting tomorrow I suggest that we should wait until Friday. Since some Senators have suggested that we should have the most up-to-date information possible on the situation, I think we should wait until Friday. If that is agreed, we would start at 2 p.m. on Friday and go on for three hours. I am sure that all the Senators who have Friday appointments could make other arrangements since this is the most important issue this country will face.
Mr. Wright: The Whips can arrange that. Since there is to be a meeting tomorrow by waiting until Friday this House would be in the position of having the most up-to-date information and of having a very good debate.
With regard to the statements on the Common Agricultural Policy tomorrow, there is no problem; I have already  agreed that that would be carried over until next week. As regards having the Control of Dogs Bill before the summer recess and the Electoral Bill, I hope, with the agreement of the Whips to have three to four days next week to clear this. Hopefully, the Electoral Bill will be in the Dáil the week after the Maastricht vote. Have no fears about any rumours you may have heard. It will be on the Order Paper next week and be taken for at least three days and possibly four.
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