Wednesday, 21 February 1996
Seanad Éireann Debate
Ms O'Sullivan: Today's business is items 1, 2, 3 and 17, motion 28. Item 1 will be taken until 1 p.m. and there will be a sos from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Item 2 will be taken at 2 p.m. and item 3, the continuation of the statements on Northern Ireland, will be taken at 4 p.m. Item 17, motion 28 will be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. I suggest 20 minutes per speaker on items 1 and 2. The times are already set for the other items.
Mr. Fitzgerald: The Order of Business is agreed. Item 9 on the Order Paper is in the Freedom of Information Bill, 1995, in the name of Senator Roche. Can the Acting Leader indicate when we will finalise this legislation?
Mr. Dardis: I ask the Acting Leader to convey to the Minister for the Marine our concern about the potential for pollution from the Sea Empress disaster off the coast of Wales. It is not very far from our coast and, in the event of a change of direction in the wind and tides, there is potential for significant environmental damage. I ask the Acting Leader to convey to the Minister for the Marine our request that all precautions be undertaken to ensure that environmental damage is minimised.
I am pleased that the Acting Leader has left the time arrangements for statements on Northern Ireland as they were yesterday. Last week a change was made in the context of statements on agriculture. It is undesirable that time arrangements would be altered when a debate is resumed. It is a matter which might be noted in future.
Mr. Lanigan: Will the Acting Leader ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to contact the Australian Embassy about a matter of great concern to many people in Ireland? The Australian Embassy now has a tape recording stating that if a person is looking for a working visa they should contact them after July of this year. In many cases people have booked tickets for Australia. They were told by the Australian Embassy that there was a six week term in which they could apply but when they applied they were told no more work visas were being issued. If a person rings the Australian Embassy to get a holiday work permit, they will be  told by this answering machine that no more visas are being issued.
Mr. Lanigan: Why does the Australian Embassy use electronic means to tell Irish people it does not want them in Australia for a short time when they are allowing people in from every other part of the world? If it was not for the Irish women who went to Botany Bay, Australia would not be what it is today. I ask the embassy to respond positively to the many people looking for short-term visas.
Mr. Roche: This afternoon there will be disruption in certain public service offices because people who are among the lowest paid workers in this State believe they must hold an industrial dispute. We all regret that. Can the Acting Leader make time for a discussion on personnel policies in the public service and the developments thereon? My  interest is very specific. I once had the honour to serve on the national executive of the union in question.
My second point relates to both Wicklow and a number of constituencies. It is has just come to my attention that the ESB is operating a discriminatory policy when compensating people for damage done to their property or lives because of problems arising from non-ionising radiation and the power lines. There is an extraordinary diversity in the amount of compensation paid. For example, a person who had 11 sites destroyed by the ESB received £11,000 in County Wicklow, while another person who had a view from a house badly spoiled received £191,000 under the same arbitration process. This has not just happened in County Wicklow, but also in Counties Sligo and Clare and elsewhere.
Mr. McGowan: Will the Acting Leader arrange a debate in the near future on the funding available to county enterprise boards and on Leader funding? I raise this issue because a meeting of the County Donegal enterprise board was held on 19 February. The board received applications for in excess of £1 million, which involved 25 items on the agenda. However, the board had £90,000 available to it, which covers two items, and it did not even consider the first matter on the agenda.
Mr. McGowan: I am advised the Leader programmes face the same problem. We listened to much propaganda about bottom up approaches and communities making decisions for themselves. However, every item — even applications for £1,500 — must go to the Department for approval. There was never more bureaucracy in the system.
Will the Acting Leader pass on the congratulations of the House to the American people for their wisdom in choosing Mr. Pat Buchanan and thereby ensuring the victory of President Clinton in the next election?
Senator Dardis raised the matter of  the tanker which is causing serious environmental concerns off the coast of Wales. I understand the situation is being closely monitored to ensure it does not affect Ireland, but I will bring the Senator's concerns to the relevant Department. Senator Dardis also requested a debate on defence. There is no time for such a debate this week but I will investigate whether it can be arranged as soon as possible.
I take the Senator's point in relation to Northern Ireland. Senator Daly was in possession when the debate adjourned last night and a number of Members have indicated that they wish to contribute. As the Senator noted, two hours will be available this afternoon.
Ms O'Sullivan: I have not yet travelled as far as Australia. However, I agree it is frustrating to receive information on a tape machine when one is not in a position to make one's point. The Senator's point is well made and can be passed on to the relevant Australian authorities.
Senator Roche raised the industrial action this afternoon in the public service which will close a number of offices. Notices in newspapers indicated that, for example, the Revenue Commissioners and the Passport Office will be closed this afternoon. The Senator also raised the matter of the ESB and power lines and he was supported by Senator Norris. They appear suitable matters for discussion on the Adjournment and perhaps the Senators could use that avenue to raise them.
Senator McGowan has raised the point about the enterprise boards many times. It is some time since there was a debate on enterprise and employment  in general. It is a worthwhile suggestion and I hope it can be taken up soon. The concern has been raised in other areas also, but the Senator has mentioned it a number of times.
The House does not have authority regarding Senator Norris's point about Mr. Pat Buchanan. However, it is at the early stages and the Senator cannot be sure of the outcome at this point in relation to the republican nomination.
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