Thursday, 25 November 1993
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Wright: It is proposed to take Item 1 between now and 11 a.m. and it is suggested that there may be one spokesperson per group. Item 2 will be taken from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to allow as many people as possible to participate in the  debate. Ten minutes per person may be agreeable but, if not, Senators can advise me. It is proposed to have a sos from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and to take Item 3 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Mr. Manning: I suggest that we should let Item 1 continue until 11 o'clock because there may be a variety of views on the subject. Since the Minister may make a lengthy speech on Item 2, it would be appropriate for the leader of each group to contribute for 15 minutes instead of ten minutes.
Mr. O'Toole: I recognise that slight rearrangements have been made to the Order of Business today and that it will be necessary to take Item 1 from now until 11 o'clock. I presume that the Minister will be winding up the debate on Item 2 coming up to 1 o'clock?
Mr. O'Toole: Is it possible then to have flexibility at the end so that the debate could go beyond 1 o'clock, if that does not create a problem, because we have lost half an hour in the morning? I suggest that, if it is acceptable to the Minister and the Whips, it could go on until 1.15 p.m. or 1.20 p.m. to allow two extra speakers to contribute. It is acceptable for the first speakers from each group to take 15 minutes. May I suggest that on Item 1 each group be restricted to 5 minutes and that would take us up to 11 o'clock?
Mr. Dardis: ——a vitally important matter, that will greatly restrict the capacity of Members of the House to contribute to this debate. While I am prepared to accept that the arrangements for a two hour debate today may be reasonable, I am not prepared to accept that the debate should conclude. I will put down an amendment to that effect.
Mr. Cosgrave: I hope it will not be necessary to bring in a guillotine on Item 1 and that everyone who wishes to contribute will be able to do so. I agree with Senator Dardis in regard to Item 2. It has been agreed that it would be a relatively short debate today but other Members will seek to contribute at a future date.
Mr. Norris: I strongly support the point made by Senator Dardis. It would not be appropriate for the debate to conclude today if Members wish to speak. We have looked for a long time for a debate on Northern Ireland although we had a debate on the Opsahl report. Everybody who wants to speak on Northern Ireland should be given that opportunity. I am quite happy with restrictions on time as the limits are fair. However, people should not be excluded from  taking part in this debate and I fully support Senator Dardis's point. I am not sure if he has made a firm proposal. If he has — I see he is nodding his head — I am very happy to second it.
Mr. Magner: That is why the Leader suggested ten minutes for party spokespersons, a considerable amount of time. The House expressed a desire for the Tánaiste to come here for a debate on Northern Ireland. He said he would be available for such a debate from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and we did not indicate to him that the debate would be longer. We assumed that from 1 p.m. the activities listed in his diary would take precedence. It is unfair for us to extend, willy-nilly, his or any other Minister's time.
Mr. Magner: The situation in Northern Ireland is evolving and I have no doubt that, subsequent to the Anglo-Irish summit, the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste would be willing to come to the House. I strongly suggest the proposition of ten minutes is acceptable.
In relation to Item 33, will the Leader allow a brief discussion on the granting of bail by the courts? It is a very important issue and change in this area would require a referendum to amend the Constitution. The European elections are being held next June and we should debate this issue in advance to ensure there is a referendum on the same day. There is no point in calling for a constitutional  change shortly before elections are held. We must do it far in advance of such elections and have the necessary legislation in place to allow the people to decide on a change in the Constitution to enable bail to be refused to hardened criminals. At present bail cannot be refused on the ground that such criminals will commit further crimes.
Mr. Enright: I agree with Senator Manning that party spokespersons should be allocated 15 minutes. There should not be a finishing off point at 1 o'clock. I accept the generosity of the Tánaiste in making himself available for the debate but it is part and parcel of his responsibilities to come to the House. We will endeavour to facilitate him in every respect. This is an elected House and it is important our views go on record. I hope to contribute to this debate today. When the Opsahl report was discussed, Members kept their contributions concise. I also wish to know when it is intended to take Item 4 and what time-scale the Leader intends allocating for the discussion on this important matter.
Mr. Wright: I was only trying to be helpful. I have no problem with allocating 15 minutes to each spokesperson and ten minutes to each subsequent speaker. The Tánaiste was here only three weeks ago. We should put the correct position on record; during the eight years prior to my term as Leader we did not have a debate on Northern Ireland. I am not justifying this, I am merely making the point.
Mr. Wright: We had a debate on Northern Ireland three years ago and will have another today which will be open-ended. We are allocating 15 minutes for  spokespersons and ten minutes for subsequent speakers. In relation to two other points raised, programme managers are covered by the Official Secrets Act. The Second Stage of Item 4, the Road Traffic Bill, 1993, will be taken before Christmas.
Mr. O'Toole: On a point of order and to be helpful, I think this can be accepted and we should not vote on it if possible. Will the Leader indicate that the debate can be resumed at the earliest possible time? The Tánaiste does not have to be present. Members merely wish to speak on the record.
An Cathaoirleach: In fairness, the Leader said it will stay on the Order Paper. That is the only way a debate can be held on a subsequent date, whether it is next week, two weeks' time or whenever.  Its timing is a matter for decision on each day's Order of Business.
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