Wednesday, 16 November 1994
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Wright: Today's Order of Business is Item 1, the Maintenance Bill, 1994. With the agreement of the House, all Stages will be dealt with today and the Private Members' Motion and Adjournment Matters will be deferred.
Mr. Manning: The Order of Business is agreed. It is one of the ironies of our constitutional tradition that we are on the sidelines today while momentous events are taking place in the other House. I do not propose to comment on what is happening because there is still a great deal which we do not know and there are questions to be answered and explanations given. It would not help if  we were to say anything which would distract from the answers we seek. I hope in the national interest full answers can be given and some credibility can be restored to a political system which has been badly battered over the past week.
I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to Item 26 on the Order Paper in the name of Fine Gael Senators which was put down a couple of weeks ago. If it is appropriate tomorrow, I ask that time be given for a discussion on this motion. It is a matter of major concern and tomorrow we will know more about the facts. I ask for time for a discussion tomorrow on Item 26 or a similar motion to that on the Order Paper.
Mr. O'Toole: I take a different view to Senator Manning. The matters being discussed in the other House have a direct impact on everyone in this Chamber and in the State. This House should be offered an explanation and the opportunity to discuss the extraordinary events taking place. It is not good enough in an age of transparency and openness that these matters are confined to the party rooms of political parties because there is more involved, we all need to know and to be involved.
I notice the Government parties are settling in well together and they are back in the big House together. When they settle their business — it is important that they do — it is critical that we get a full explanation and the chance to explore and to have defined those issues which created a problem. There is great unease and we must reflect that in the House. In our discussions on topical issues, we must be able to offer a view. Every Member of this House has not only a right but a duty and a responsibility to offer a view and a response to the extraordinary sequence of events. I appeal to the Leader to give a commitment today that we will have an opportunity to discuss this issue tomorrow. I am not asking for it to be discussed today. I recognise that the business of this House today may  necessarily, and quite rightly, be truncated in order to allow for ministerial involvement in the support of the arrangements of Government. I recognise and accept that those arrangements are necessary but I ask that we get the opportunity tomorrow to deal with these matters.
Ms Honan: Given the extraordinary political crisis, it is very unreal to proceed with the ordinary business. The failure of the State to extradite somebody who was wanted for child sexual abuse has shocked the entire country. We should have a full discussion of that in this House.
Mr. Norris: I believe we ought to have a debate. I accept, of course, what my colleague Senator O'Toole says, that there must be facilities for Ministers to engage in discussions and take their proper place in the other House. However, I believe we should have a debate on the events leading up to today. There are a number of serious questions about the Taoiseach's statement yesterday and the Attorney General's statement prior to that which we are well able to discuss before the events unfold this afternoon.
Unless we are to become a completely redundant appendage to the Government, we ought to be here discussing these matters this afternoon. We do not need the presence of Ministers to so do and because I believe this, I tabled a motion under Standing Order 29 at 2.30 p.m. — which, I presume, I will read out at 3.30 p.m. — seeking the Adjournment of this House on a matter of national importance. We should be here discussing the matters which have been revealed over the past few days if we are serious about the role of this House of the Oireachtas.
We are not just to be spectators in the Dáil. I was in the Dáil yesterday and there were not that many Members of this House there, and I would be surprised  if everybody wants to go and watch the blood sports taking place down the corridor this afternoon.
Mr. Neville: The Fine Gael view is that we want full information before we debate this issue here. Our party leader made it quite clear that he wanted full information before he would debate it. We have asked for a debate on the issue tomorrow when the full facts will have been revealed.
Dr. Henry: Some weeks ago when this business first became public I asked the Leader of the House to find out for me — it seemed impossible at the time — if those with responsibility for these matters issued any guidelines regarding the employment of people who were under suspicion and coming before the courts as accused of being paedophiles. I have not heard from the Leader or from the Minister for Justice. I would be very grateful to know if he has any information for me on this matter. This is another case of people with authority refusing to take responsibility and, apparently, those with responsibility not having any authority over the situation.
Mr. Lanigan: We are not an appendage to the other House of the Oireachtas. We are part of the administration of law and justice in this country. I reject the suggestion by Opposition Senators that we are an appendage to the other House. We discuss matters which are brought forward by the Leader of the House and we vote on them. Any suggestion that we are just an appendage is——
Mr. Lanigan: He can hide his arrogance behind his insolence but it does not wear. I suggest that we leave it to the Leader of the House to order the business of the House. If there is a problem, let the Leader decide.
Mr. McGowan: I ask the Leader of the House, I hope on a positive note, to arrange an early debate on the progress of the county enterprise boards, the Leader programme, the INTERREG programme and the new structure for tourism. My impression is that, to some extent, these organisations overlap. We are overloaded with administration.
The word is that these structures constitute a bottom-up approach. I believe that we are top heavy with structures, some of which are not very well funded. I ask the Leader of the House to arrange time for a debate on the various structures, some of them quite new, as soon as possible. This includes the new set of committees put in place to administer the tourism industry. It is important that this House has an opportunity to discuss this matter.
Mr. Mooney: I am delighted that my colleague Senator McGowan has raised this serious matter in the House. We, as Members of the Seanad whose constituency is comprised of members of local authorities, should place on public record the serious concern that has been expressed about the diminution of powers at local level and the continuing centralisation of these powers to nondemocratic  bodies which is aided and abetted by European institutions. I support Senator McGowan on this matter which is much more serious than it seems on the face of it. I urge the Leader to respond positively and quickly.
Mr. Roche: I ask the Senator to contain himself. He is a man who continuously comes into this House and talks about centralism. He is a raving hypocrite because the reality is that he has no interest in the matter.
Mr. Roche: The Senator should restrain himself. The suggestion that local authority members are to have a diminished role in the Leader II Programme should be resisted by Members on all sides of the House. There is need for a debate on this because public representatives have been removed from too many bodies. We are creating too many quangos without responsibility. I suggest that Members on all sides of the House should address this matter.
Mr. Wright: Senator Manning, Senator Norris and others raised issues relating to the former Attorney General.  I agree with Senator Manning and ask the House to wait until events unfold in the other House. I give an undertaking to review the situation tomorrow morning. I ask Senator Norris, in the interest of the House and its running today, not move his motion until tomorrow. I do not want an argument on this but it is my judgment that it would be better to wait and allow events unfold in the other House from 4 p.m. onwards.
Mr. Norris: I do not agree with the Order of Business but since Senator O'Toole has given a commitment of agreement, I will not be calling a vote. I will consider my position with regard to a motion under Standing Order 29. I am not speaking entirely of your role as Cathaoirleach, but on a number of occasions I have placed matters down which I certainly believed were matters of urgent national importance and they were ruled not to be. It will be interesting to discover what constitutes a matter of national importance. If this catastrophic crisis in Government does not constitute such a matter, the House is entitled to know the criterion by which a matter of national importance is determined.
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