Thursday, 17 February 1994
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Wright: Today's Order of Business will be Item 1, the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 1993, Committee Stage, which will be taken until 1 p.m. There will be a sos between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Item 2, Statements on the Developing the West Together report entitled A Crusade for Survival, will be taken from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. We will also come back to Item 2 on a later day. There will be 15 minutes per speaker.
Mr. Manning: I noticed that many papers dealing with European affairs were laid before the Seanad on both yesterday's and today's Order Papers, some of which are of considerable importance. I felt for a long time that the way in which this and the other House — this House has a better track record in this regard — debates European matters of importance leaves a great deal to be desired. Once again I wish to raise my party's proposal that Members of the European Parliament — it may not be appropriate at the moment — would have the right of audience in this House. We could then discuss some of the important matters referred to in the Order Paper.
I also noticed on the Order Paper yesterday, and I thought it would have been raised by the parties on the opposite side, under the heading “Papers Laid before the Seanad”, the filling of a casual vacancy in the European Parliament. I am surprised at the silence from the Government benches on this matter and, lest their silence is misconstrued, may my party offer our commiserations to Ms Bernie Malone on her election to the European Parliament?
Mr. O'Toole: I would certainly like to back up Senator Manning's point. Even on today's Order Paper, two of those papers are of extreme interest. One concerns the disposal of State lands and property by the Department of Finance. That report hides a multitude of matters every year. It is involved in various practices such as the disposal of old Garda stations and residences, national schools and other property in which the State has huge investments. One often sees in that report large properties changing hands for sums as small as £5 or £10 and I wish to draw the attention of the House to it. I am also intrigued by the Resolution on conscientious objection in the member states of the European Union. Perhaps the Leader could explain the details of this paper to the House.
Will the Leader consider having a full discussion on the Programme for Competitiveness and Work? The development and negotiation of that programme  involved the elected democratic representatives of the State. Although——
Mr. O'Toole: ——the farmers think they are the only ones who can negotiate with the Government, in these talks the Government negotiated with all the social partners. This has created problems for some Members of the House. However, I would like to knock on the head the notion that democracy was not represented. These talks were organised by, and with, the Government and all decision-making in which it was involved took place in the same way. It is important to have a discussion on the outcome of those negotiations as soon as possible because there is much uninformed and misinformed comment in the media on the negotiations and the outcome and it is time to correct that.
On a related matter I ask the Leader of the House for a full debate in this House on the public service. It is time that people recognised the value for money the public service and elected public representatives give at all levels.
Mr. O'Toole: This issue needs to be addressed. It is in all our interest that the facts be made known and that we rebut the idea of poorly paid public servants lining their pockets in a pay deal that is barely keeping up with inflation.
Mr. Dardis: I support Senator O'Toole's call for a debate on the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, Item 5 on the Order Paper. I suspect it might originally have been called the programme for work and competitiveness until some bright spark discovered the initials would be PWC and decided to change it.
Mr. Dardis: Is Senator O'Toole seriously suggesting that our elected representatives should not have a say in how this programme might be perceived or an  input to it? Of course they should. If we are to be consistent with the spirit of open government professed by the Government side it is important to discuss the programme.
Mr. Dardis: I have not been speaking for five minutes. We have at regular intervals in the past debated the presidency. We should do so again because we are interested in hearing the reasons for the Attorney General's ruling on the presidency and the reasons the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste considered it necessary to go to Áras an Uachtarán.
Mr. Magner: European papers and the presidency were mentioned, things are getting desperate. I would support Senator O'Toole if I had an earthly clue as to what he was saying in any of his long and distorted speeches.
Mr. Magner: I did not know whether he was asking us to be delegates to his union or to take part in a vote. Will the Leader arrange time for a debate on a report published by the ESRI today which welcomes the minor tax reform in relation to residential property tax?
Mr. Roche: I support Senator O'Toole's view that there should be a debate on this issue. I am amazed that empowering wider groups of Irish people to be participants in their own affairs should somehow strike a——
Mr. Roche: ——a chord with the right. I also believe we should debate on the ESRI report and the broader issue of the future form of taxation. Would it be possible to make time for that because we could have a calmer debate in the post budget period?
Time should also be made available for a discussion on the draft final report of the DTI which is widely available and clearly indicates there has been some extraordinary rifling of the Structural  Funds by a number of State bodies with a view to looking after their particular activities.
Mr. Enright: Will the Leader arrange a debate on the Kentz Corporation? We are all aware of its position and the possibility of considerable job losses, which is very worrying. It is important to debate this matter at the earliest opportunity as it affects so many people. In my constituency a number of people are concerned about their jobs and in my neighbouring constituency of Tipperary it is far more worrying for the people concerned.
Mr. Daly: I would like an opportunity to discuss with the Minister for Labour the developing crisis in De Beers in Shannon in which 600 people are employed and thousands of others depend on the company for their jobs. A crisis is developing as strike notice has been served although temporarily deferred. These matters of grave urgency will have serious implications for the whole region. I would welcome an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Minister for Labour.
Mr. Wright: As was the case yesterday, many of the issues raised are more suitable for other occasions. With regard to the EU papers, the Whips will announce in the next week or two that we will sitting three days a week.
Mr. Wright: We will ensure a full day's debate on the EU as I agree with those who called for it. Senator O'Toole mentioned Item 5; I gave a commitment yesterday that this will be discussed extensively. I am sure the Whips will be able to accommodate a debate on the ESRI report, the same applies to the DTI report. The matters raised with regard to Kentz and De Beers are very important  and I am sure Senators will find a way of bringing them to the House.
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