Universities Bill, 1996: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Tuesday, 22 April 1997

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 151 No. 2

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Amendment No. 35 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is there a mover for amendment No. 36?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I think I have Senator Lee's authority to move it on his behalf. I move amendment No. 36:

In page 13, subsection (2)(d)(ii), line 14, to delete “or” where it secondly occurs and substitute “and”.

This would change “not less than three or more than five permanent or full-time members of the other academic staff” to “not less than three or more than five permanent and full-time members [161] of the academic staff”. I move the amendment so that we can hear the Minister's response and to allow Senator Lee to resubmit if he so wishes on Report Stage.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  In my view such staff who are either full-time or permanent should be represented on the governing authority. This subsection therefore provides that permanent part-time staff and all full-time staff, whether permanent or not, would have a right of representation. Should a job sharing mother with a permanent post as a lecturer or cleaner not have a right to such representation? The effect of these amendments would be that the representatives on the governing body must be both permanent and full-time and I could not agree with that.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I will not argue the toss now but I take the points made. I am still debating these matters so I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 37 not moved.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I move amendment No. 38:

In page 13, subsection (3), lines 31 to 39, to delete paragraph (a).

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I cannot support this amendment. The wider community dimension — including, as the case may be, employer, trade union, agriculture, fisheries or community interests — is, in effect, the social partners in our democracy. It is an important element in the diverse make up of the new governing authorities.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I reserve the right to put down an amendment on Report Stage. There is a misunderstanding which is probably my fault.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendments Nos. 38a, 39, 41, 51a, 54a, 58a, 60a, 60b, 61a and 63a are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I move amendment No. 38a:

In page 13, subsection (3)(a), line 36, after “organisations” to insert “Irish language and Gaeltacht organisations”.

These amendments concern the Irish language. Ba mhaith liom go mbeadh seans an Gaelige a chuthú sa mhéad a bheadh idir láimh le húdaráis na hollscoileanna. Níl anseo ach iarracht chun iad a tharaingt isteach agus seans a thabhairt dóibh chun pháirt a ghlacadh. There is nothing overwhelming about this nor will it cause a huge problem for the Minister. If amendment No. 38a were accepted, the Bill would read:

[162] (a) at least one but not more than four persons, chosen by a committee of the governing authority comprising the chief officer and two other members, from among nominations made by such organisations as are representative of employers, trade unions, agriculture, fisheries, community organisations, Irish language and Gaeltacht organisations, the professions, business and industry as the governing authority considers appropriate, of whom at least one shall be chosen from those nominated by organisations representative of business or industry [.]

There are issues connected with study of the Irish language. As someone who learned Latin through Irish from an English textbook I appreciate the difficulties which can arise. The first part of my third level studies in a college of education was conducted from English textbooks through the medium of Irish. Many support structures need to be put in place to allow third level institutions to give sustenance to Irish.

I am not looking for anything special, only that the position of college students from the Gaeltacht should be ameliorated and that there should be an ethos of understanding their viewpoint. This does not change anything radically, it is merely a recognition. I am careful not to look for additional special arrangements. I often argue with Irish language organisations but in this case it is reasonable to grant them recognition. I am particularly supportive of people from the Gaeltacht. Sílim ar na deacrachtaí ag muintir na Gaeltachtaí atá ag freastal ar gcoláistí tríú leibhéal Ó thaobh théacsanna agus modhanna na múinteoireachta. Their views should be reflected as appropriate. UCG has made a huge effort in terms of Irish — that may be unfair on other colleges but UCG has always been a Gaeltacht-oriented third level institution. If the amendment was accepted, at least it would have to be considered in the course of implementing the other parts of the Bill. The same argument applies to the other amendments. Does the Minister feel open to them or what is her view?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I support Senator O'Toole. I will not hazard breaking into Irish at this hour. Because I am afraid of being woefully ungrammatical, I will not follow the Senator's ambidextrous act. I see no difficulty with this. I am not speaking in Irish but I understood his remarks. He may correct me if I am wrong, but I take it he does not want anything particularly ambitious. He is looking for an opportunity for the Irish language to be provided — there is no element of compunction in the amendment. If we are serious about Irish we should facilitate its growth and development. My colleague wants to facilitate those institutions who wish to pick members of Irish language organisations; it is one among a number of options. It is reasonable to make a nod in this direction so I am happy to support the Senator.

[163]Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  Ba mhaith liom cuidiú leis an leasú. The amendment does not mean a great deal, it simply mentions these bodies among many others. Bodies such as Bord na Gaelige or Chomhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaelige should be included as well as trade union, agricultural or fisheries organisations.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  Ba mhaith liom tacaíocht a thabhairt do no leasúcháin seo chomh maith.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I realise that some of the amendments are more difficult to accept or more significant than others. I would be pleased if the Minister made a meaningful gesture.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  In the discussions here and in the other House I said I thought it would be possible to include Irish language organisations among the wider community interests. I have a difficulty with Senator Dardis's amendment No. 41 because it would require Trinity College to draw at least two members of its governing body from this category, as would amendment No. 61a proposed by Senator O'Toole.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  We cannot have that.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  We have reached a satisfactory solution, being as relevant and responsive as possible to the needs of that august institution. I would not recommend being prescriptive in this regard. Of course, the college can co-opt such a person. I would prefer not to have to make it a requirement in that case but to be able to facilitate the other proposals for the other institutions. I propose to return on Report Stage to those amendments, except for amendment No. 41 which I recommend should not be accepted.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I am happy to withdraw the amendment on that basis.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 39 not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 40:

In page 13, subsection (3) (a), line 39, after “business” to insert “agri-business”.

I tabled this amendment for the purpose of seeking clarification. It might appear pedantic but it is not. Does agri-business count as agriculture or business? At least two universities might want to have representatives from agri-business on their governing authorities. It states later in the section that the Minister shall ensure at least two people from the business community are on the body. How is agri-business categorised in that regard?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The term “business” covers the categories to which the Senator referred. It [164] covers employers, agricultural business and industry. The amendment is not necessary.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  Section 15(9) states:

...the Minister shall ensure that there at least two members of the governing authority... who are nominated by organisations representative of business or industry or who, in the opinion of the Minister, are representative of business or industry.

Does agri-business come under that category?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Yes.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 41 not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 42:

In page 14, subsection (3) (b), line 2, after “among” to insert “at least four”.

This relates to ministerial nominations. The section states “from among persons nominated”. I am not adamant about the number “four”. However, if the Minister nominates two people they are, in effect, direct ministerial nominations and the governing authority has no choice in the matter. A governing authority cannot have much choice if it has to choose from two people to fill two places on the authority. Is it intended that they would be direct nominees or that the governing authority could choose from a number of names?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  It is an unnecessary level of detail to require an education board to put forward four nominees from whom one would be appointed. It should be left to the universities to work out that matter with the relevant boards. I welcome Senator Lee's support for education boards in proposing this amendment but I oppose this level of detail.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Who will appoint those members? Will it be the authority? From which group will they be drawn? Will they already be employees of the university and subject to the authority? Will they be there just at the whim of the president or the governing authority who can dictate to them? Who are they, from where will they come and what is their purpose?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The nomination will be made by the regional education board.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I take the point that this might be an excessive level of detail so I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Calnan): Information on Michael Calnan  Zoom on Michael Calnan  Amendment No. 45 is related to amendment No. 43 and both [165] may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I move amendment No. 43:

In page 14, subsection (3) (c), line 6, to delete “shall” and substitute “may”.

This is the crux of the Bill and is particularly difficult to accept. If this provision is enacted, it will be the first time Dublin University will have accepted political nominees on its board. Apart from it being something of a culture shock, it is also totally unjustifiable in terms of logic. If the universities want to welcome people from outside onto their boards, as is the case in subsection (3)(a), that is fair enough. However, it is totally unjustifiable to write into legislation that Ministers should have political patronage which would allow them to place their own nominees on the boards of universities.

I understand the point of view that people from outside should be on university boards, in that it is arguable that non-executives are a protection in certain situations for shareholders. Therefore, independent people on university boards may be seen and interpreted — although I do not share this view — as being there as impartial observers to watch the managers and those who have real and particular interests within the university. However, the idea that members should be directly appointed by a Minister is thoroughly objectionable.

The record of political parties of appointments to semi-State boards is nothing short of disgraceful. I find it very difficult to discover any appointments to semi-State boards which do not have political dimensions. They come across my desk on a daily basis in another capacity. The only puzzle I have to solve when appointments to a semi-State board are announced is to which party they have an allegiance. That puzzle can be resolved extremely quickly. It is very sad that the semi-State bodies have been treated in such a way. People are appointed to such boards because of their political leanings and their ability is a secondary consideration. That is not the way I want to see our universities go.

I do not accept assurances from Ministers who say this is not their intention. I have been in this House for longer than most Members and I have heard such assurances from Ministers before, especially when semi-State bodies are being set up. Those assurances undoubtedly ring hollow when the appointments are made.

I have very little doubt that, because of the fuss which has been made about this Bill, when the first ministerial appointments are made that political aspect will not be as prominent as it normally would be on semi-State or other such bodies. However, we are legislating for eternity rather than for a year. We are introducing something which is not justifiable in the context of the history of this State. The political parties have disgraced themselves with their patronage. When they come to power they ruthlessly appoint their [166] own to such boards. I do not accept any assurances that the universities will be treated any differently. Such appointments may be made to reward constituents or for reasons of political patronage. However, there will be a political aspect to these appointments, whether they be one or four; and the fewer the better. No member of the Government could tell the House with a clear conscience that people have been appointed totally on merit, because if true, it would be the greatest coincidence in the history of the world that so many of them have allegiances to political parties.

The amendment seeks to change the word “shall” to “may”. It is not extreme, nor doctrinaire. It gives the Minister the power to nominate, but it also gives the boards of the universities the right to reject a nominee. The present wording forces the board to accept a nominee. No amount of argument will convince me that, at some stage, somebody will not be appointed for political purposes.

Amendment No. 45 in the name of Senator Norris states that the provisions of section 15(3)(c) shall not apply in the case of Trinity College. I would prefer that it should not apply in any case and that boards should be free of political influence. If section 15(3)(c) is necessary for the sake of transparency and to ensure that somebody, on behalf of the Minister, can see what is going on, is it not true that transparency will also be satisfied by the fact that the books will be opened and that the provost of Trinity College and the executives in other universities will be subject to examination by the Comptroller and Auditor General? There is no resistance to full accountability and transparency, but there is resistance throughout my constituency to political patronage entering the universities.

There has been extensive argument about the role of county councillors. I accept there is a point of view here, although I disagree with it. However, given the history of the State, there is no justification for political patronage on the boards of universities.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  In one sense I prefer amendment No. 43 in the name Senator Ross because it is simpler and clearer and it extends to all the universities. However, Trinity College is in an unusual situation. The constituent colleges of the National University of Ireland have traditionally had outside intervention of this kind. They may be pleased with the provision because it either stabilises or, in some cases, reduces the number of nominees. However, it would be reasonable for Trinity College to be unhappy because it is being introduced there for the first time.

The Minister has indicated that she will not introduce an amendment on Report Stage. The element of coercion is regrettable. Section 15(3)(c) provides that people “shall” be appointed on the nomination of the Minister. It would be much better to replace the word “shall” with the word “may” because it would be in [167] accordance with the principle of academic freedom, about which we have heard so much. It would also grant to the universities the dignity to decide whether they wanted a particular person foisted on them. If a particularly noxious appointment of a political character were made it would cause dissension and create tension on the board which would not foster good relations nor the efficient functioning of the university; it would inevitably waste time.

I am not flattered when I am occasionally asked to serve on committees because of the need to have a Member of the Oireachtas or whatever — I know I am being added to give extra weight. However, if I am asked because I know something about the subject I am far more inclined to become fully involved. I favour the 0 — 4 principle, in other words there could be none or up to a maximum of four, and treating universities in an adult like manner by giving them the final say.

Senator Ross has indicated that he wishes to extend this new liberation to the other universities, but I am not sure I wish to interfere where they have become used to this and are prepared to live with it. If it were such a good idea presumably they would have petitioned to increase the number of nominees. However, they are happy with a reduction.

Section 15(3)(c) represents an unnecessary interference. It also contains an element of coercion and a danger that it will not increase the efficiency of the universities, indeed, the reverse is possible. The same situation can be arrived at if the Minister is prepared to change the word “shall” to “may”. It would be unusual for a university board or authority to dismiss in a cavalier manner the Minister's wish. However, it should be left to them to decide on the suitability or otherwise of nominees. People who have been involved in an institution for 30 or 40 years and have worked their way up through it are more likely to know who is the best nominee.

While I do not envisage a large number of cases of conflict, I can envisage some. Perhaps the two amendments could be combined on Report Stage and that the substitution of the word “may” for “shall” would apply in the case of Trinity College. However, the Minister has indicated that she will not accept that proposal either.

If Senator Ross presses his amendment I will support him, although I would prefer to confine my intentions to Trinity College because the other universities may, perhaps, have a different view. That is why I suggest that the provisions of section 15(3)(c) shall not apply to Trinity College.

I had considerable assistance in the drafting of some of these amendments from members of the staff of the House. I express my gratitude to them because they often assist us with amendments, suggesting how they may framed in the absence of the kind of professional draftsperson's assistance one would expect in a modern Parliament. I [168] am grateful for their good advice and their willingness to help, sometimes at short notice.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  The Minister for Education is responsible for this legislation which is regarded as progressive and important. It is arrogant of two Senators from Trinity College to come into the House and tell the Minister that any person appointed to the board on the advice of a Minister would be done for political patronage.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It would be a good idea if the Senator got his facts right. I am being misquoted.

Acting Chairman:  Senator Sherlock without interruption.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  I will not tolerate that from these gentlemen. There are three representatives in the House from Trinity College dictating to us because the State provides the bulk of the finance for that establishment. Recently important legislation was passed in the House and none of the Trinity College representatives was in attendance.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Are there rules governing the House? First, the Senator is allowed to tell falsehoods about Members and now he is allowed to draw attention to their absence which is contrary to the Standing Orders of the House. Will the Chair give me protection? I have my own gavel here.

Acting Chairman:  Senator Sherlock without interruption. He should, however, not name anybody outside the House.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  He should not talk nonsense either, but that is not stopping him.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  I did not name anybody. I object to the perception that a person appointed to a board would have been so appointed for political patronage. That remark is atrocious.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Senator Norris did not say that; I did and I stand by it.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  The proposed amendment is distasteful. It suggests that Ministers tend to act in a substandard fashion.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Never.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  For example, the implication is that the Minister will try and find total misfits and appoint them to the board, having consulted the chief officer. Politics has taken a thrashing for the past number of years and we are making no attempt to redress that. I know members of boards who were appointed by Governments of which they were not supporters. They were appointed because of their ability. The fact that people are members of a political party should not mean that they should be looked on as substandard [169] beings. Many important and good people are members of political parties at some stage. It has been said here that because they are members they cannot show their faces; they have to hide. They cannot be seen in certain places or appointed to certain positions by Ministers. We have to catch onto ourselves because that is an insult to many people, especially to Ministers. Section 15(3) states there will be consultation. In this sophisticated age we are listening to some very unsophisticated comments from the other side of the House. We have a sophisticated people who make their own judgements on the actions of Ministers. The contributions of speakers on the other side of the House should be examined in context.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  We come from a university.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  A number of them oppose the Bill in its entirety. The theme of their contributions is that the Minister is putting her dirty hands into the business of universities. They should examine their consciences and withdraw the amendments. We should work together to make the political system more acceptable and should not undermine ourselves from the inside. We have enough to do to try and convince people that politics is a good healthy game. We have enough problems to deal with rather than trying to soil everybody by tabling an amendment of that nature.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I concur with Senator Cotter. Denigrating the position of the public representative, a democratically elected person of the people, is wrong. Members of this House are representative of public representatives. It behoves us to speak on this Bill in a positive fashion. It may be different for half a dozen Senators who represent a different type of body. I have been honoured to represent public representatives for the past 15 years and am not in favour of this amendment.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I do not support the amendments. Their effect would be that the Minister may not even have a single nominee on the governing authority of any or all institutions. The Bill is fully supported and has been accepted by all institutions.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am not surprised at being attacked for arrogance. However, I thought I made a reasonable case. I did not refer to political patronage; Senator Sherlock misheard me. If he felt I was arrogant, he must be starting from a spectacularly low position on the intellectual scale to feel he was being patronised by me, but I can attempt to if he wishes to provoke me into doing so.

Last night I attended a public meeting on adoption in Dublin. Politicians from all parties were present to defend vigorously the honourable profession of politics against onslaughts from a section of society which was looking for changes. [170] The people involved had very strong feelings, but when one person made a glancing attack on politicians, the entire hall erupted in applause. I told them they were foolish to take this easy, cheap shot at politicians. I have witnessed from the inside how honourable and decent the vast majority of people are.

My colleagues are being morbidly oversensitive and have misinterpreted my position. Senator Cotter gave the impression that everybody believed that Ministers and other politicians were the most saintly people on earth. Most of them are decent, good people who work for little in adverse circumstances but if he believes his view is generally held by the people he has a rude shock awaiting him on the doorsteps in the forthcoming election. They certainly do not. The shenanigans that have gone on in all political parties over the past few years would not lead anybody to the conclusion that this was the case.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  The Senator is trying to justify his amendment.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Of course, I am.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  The Senator does so by denigrating us.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I would like to try and reach the level of sophisticated debate referred to by Senators Cotter and Sherlock. Senator Sherlock spoke of this point being too sophisticated for my little mind to grasp. I will have to remain at a simple level because I am not capable of scaling the heights occupied by the Senators.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  We appreciate that.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  We are talking about interference from outside in an area where it has traditionally occurred. It may well be tolerable or acceptable but we are introducing a new element. There is a naked, self-serving self-interest in what Senators are saying to their electorate. We know they are elected by county councillors and are making election speeches about how wonderful they are.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  This is not about county councillors.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Privately, some Members might have a different view of county councillors.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  The Senator is getting more and more confused.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The wonderful verbiage being produced can be put in election materials.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Senator Norris is also elected by a constituency.

[171]Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Some county councillors may be fooled but I am not fooled. It is classic self-serving behaviour and goes across all parties.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  This has nothing to do with the amendment.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Senator Norris is elected by an elitist constituency.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  So is Senator Cassidy. Country and western music lovers are a minority.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  They are 40 per cent of Fianna Fáil and 0.1 per cent of the Trinity electorate.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It is going to be a long evening and we should have some fun, but I am not going to delay this Bill ad nauseam. However, some Senators are posturing for their electorate and accusing Independent Senators for making reasoned speeches——

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Read my lips.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I would if they were in the back of the Senator's head, but that is impossible even given his unusual configuration.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  What constituency is Senator Norris after?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am after 32,000 University of Dublin voters that I have succeeded in persuading before.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  That is less than a parish.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I was at another meeting this evening where the Seanad was discussed. Approximately 30 years ago, the Irish Auctioneers and Valuers' Association were having their diamond jubilee and nominated their president. He did not get a single vote, as happened to the President of the Royal Irish Academy: that is a nominating body for the Seanad. I seek an opinion here from Senator Cassidy, who must have been designed by Picasso.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Was Senator Norris's vote being canvassed?

Acting Chairman:  Order, please. We are not discussing Seanad elections but the Universities Bill.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  The plain people of Ireland can speak as well as the Trinity College intellectual.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Sometimes even better.

Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  It would be a magnificent Minister for Education who would nominate a person who would have such a dramatic effect on the affairs of our universities as to disrupt their governance so much. If the Minister could find that person, [172] he or she would have to be very powerful and wasted on the universities.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Ben Dunne.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  The Minister did not reply to the points made but said that she might have one or no nominee, which is precisely the point. The Minister did not justify why the nominees need to be there. We are entitled to know why the Minister needs between one and four nominees on the board of a university. The Minister may giggle, but it is an important point.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  She is not giggling. She is being told.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  She is being told to giggle. Why should the Minister have a nominee on the board of Dublin University for the first time? Is there a particular reason why Dublin University deserves this surveillance?

I am a politician. I know of and have seen the power and temptation of patronage. When politicians are allowed the power of patronage, they abuse it. The Labour Party has abused patronage in this Government to a savage and unforgivable extent. That is the problem.

Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  Senator Ross should quantify that accusation.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  The appointments on the formation of the Government in 1992 were disgraceful and well documented.

Two Ministerial appointments were recently made in Senator Sherlock's constituency to the board of Bord Gáis. I will not name them, but one is the Lord Mayor of Cork, an ex-Fine Gael Deputy, and the other was a financial secretary of the Labour Party. I am sure that a detailed study was done of these people's interest in and knowledge of gas and business and that interviews were held by Bord Gáis and the Minister. Let us not be ridiculous about this; these were blatant political appointments. That is what happens in Ireland and it is why I want to keep patronage out of as many places as possible. I do not welcome Ministerial power of appointment because it is abused.

I heard Senator Cassidy's point. The only time parties close ranks is on the issue of patronage as all their nest eggs are threatened. They all want the power to put people on the board of a university.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Hear, hear.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  That is outrageous. I am sure there is a rational case for that power but I want the Minister to give us the reasons why it is necessary. It is an innovation for at least one university. Maybe it is the usual ritual mention of taxpayers' money, but we are entitled to a reply.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I take issue with Senator Ross saying that when county councillors are put on boards of universities they abuse their power.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I did not mention county councillors.

[173]Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Senator Ross mentioned it in relation to Senator Cassidy's contribution, saying they should not be put on boards because they abuse their power. I object to that and ask the Senator to withdraw it.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I cannot withdraw something I did not say, but I understand the affection of Members for county councillors. I understand Senator Ormonde's outrage and it will be good for her in her constituency when it is time for her re-election.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  If someone puts a lot of money into a company they generally have someone nominated to the board or they themselves take a position on that board. This is somewhat similar. The Government is putting a huge amount of money into the university system and I see nothing wrong with the same procedure being applied to allow the Minister to appoint a person or persons to the board.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  The analogy is totally incorrect because people go onto boards with the consent of that board.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Today, universities play a very central role in the economic and intellectual development of the country. It is therefore quite reasonable that a Minister would appoint at least one person to the institutions we are now discussing. Those institutions appear to have an erroneous impression that what the State gives in the back door is not to be recognised in the front parlour.

Perhaps it is not for me to enter the debate on attacks on people with party political affiliations. I have appointed people to boards, some because they share my philosophy on the future development of education, and I am more than satisfied that those people have contributed and will continue [174] to contribute to their boards because they are qualified to do so.

Universities are no longer just for the elite. I have opened the gates of university for undergraduates by abolishing the tax relief for covenants. A small sector of society had been able to rip-off that relief to such an extent that, through its abolition, we were able to open the gates for students with ability. Given the importance of that and the intention, aspiration and ambition of people to enjoy university education which was the privilege of an elite, it is reasonable that the centre stage role of universities would be recognised and that the Minister can appoint at least one nominee to represent that public interest on their board.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It is unfortunate that the Minister raised the issue of free education because if she looks at it, she will find that she will have great difficulty demonstrating that it has widened the social range of people entering university. That has simply not happened. I will not let the Minister away with that because it is not true.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  The Senator is out of touch.

Amendment put.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Vótáil.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  The question is: “That the word proposed to be deleted stand”. On that question a division has been challenged. Will those Senators calling for a division please rise in their places?

Senators O'Toole, Quinn, Norris, Ross and Lee stood.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  The division will now proceed.

Belton, Louis J.
Burke, Paddy.
Calnan, Michael.
Cashin, Bill.
Cassidy, Donie.
Cotter, Bill.
Cregan, Denis (Dino).
D'Arcy, Michael.
Doyle, Joe.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Fitzgerald, Tom.
Gallagher, Ann.
Hayes, Brian.
Howard, Michael.
Kelly, Mary.
Kiely, Dan.
Lanigan, Mick.
Lee, Joe.
Lydon, Don.
McAughtry, Sam.
McDonagh, Jarlath.
McGennis, Marian.
McGowan, Paddy.
Magner, Pat.
Maloney, Seán.
Manning, Maurice.
Mooney, Paschal.
Mullooly, Brian.
Naughten, Liam.
Neville, Daniel.
O'Brien, Francis.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
O'Toole, Joe.
Ormonde, Ann.
Quinn, Feargal.
Sherlock, Joe.
Townsend, Jim.
Wall, Jack.
Wright, G.V.

Norris, David. Ross, Shane P.N.

[175] Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 44:

In page 14, subsection (3)(c), line 8, after “officer” to insert “the governing authority to be informed of all proposed names”.

I cannot match the high drama of the recent past on this amendment. I will be brief because we obviously want to progress. It struck me, however, given the anxieties that surrounded this issue in general that if the names of proposed members of the governing authority in the consultation between presidents and Minister were to come up, it would give an opportunity of reassuring the sceptics about the quality of the candidate to be considered and the quality of the appointment. That is inserted with a view to assisting public education in these matters.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Senator Lee's proposal would require the chief officer to inform the governing authority of all proposed names. I cannot agree with it because there is an implication in the amendment that in some way the chief officer would be concealing information from the governing authority. If the Senator considers that the governing authority should have an input in this regard, I would point out that the chief officer must always act subject to the policies of the governing authority and is answerable to the authority. I refer the Senator to paragraph 4 of the Fourth Schedule. I do not consider this amendment to be necessary.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I certainly was not implying that. I thought it would be very interesting in terms of the way decisions are made to know the names of those who were being considered. I am withdrawing the amendment in the context of what has been said.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 45 not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 46:

In page 14, subsection (4), line 11, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

The governing authorities of universities ought to have members elected by graduates, as is the case in a number of instances at present. There ought to be specific provision for people having particular regard to artistic and cultural interests. The governing authority of any university would definitely be strengthened by the inclusion of those categories. That is why I would prefer to have “shall” rather than “may”. If it is deemed that there is not sufficient cultural calibre on a governing authority as it stands, one may have up to four members, but by what criteria does one decide there is not sufficient cultural calibre starting off? If one believes that close relations with [176] graduates is a good thing for universities — and we discussed that briefly under functions — that should be encouraged rather than being left to the different views which various universities might come to. In general terms that is something we should strive to encourage.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The effect would be that not more than four co-optees and not more than four graduates would be on the governing authority. I am not quite clear whether the effect of the amendment would be that there would be at least one of each or, indeed, if this is what the Senator is seeking. I would prefer to leave this section as an option to the universities themselves.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I come in stoutly behind the Minister on this amendment. It is a refreshing experience for me and it may convince the Minister she is wrong. It is probably Senator Lee's best chance of his amendment being accepted. I see no reason for making this compulsory; it is better to leave it to the governing authority. I agree with the Minister and I congratulate her for being so liberal and understanding of the governing authority on this issue. It is a pity she did not extend it to other areas but perhaps she will do so later tonight.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I come in stoutly behind Senator Ross.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I am now completely convinced of the correctness of my original view. I am glad I have enabled my colleagues from Trinity College to display their statesmanship on this issue.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 47:

In page 14, subsection (4)(b), line 21, after “Recognised College”, to insert “or graduates of any university who are employees of the constituent university”.

The principle that employees of the institution who are not graduates of the institution should be excluded from membership of the governing authority has a diminishing effect on the potential of representation. We are trying to increase mobility between institutions to get away from the idea that everyone is rooted in the same institution for life. Large numbers of staff of the new universities will not be graduates of those universities and their potential for participating on the governing authority will be restricted.

I will give an example of the type of thing I have in mind. The professor of music at the University of Limerick is one of the most creative people in Irish culture. The university is developing music as a major area of activity and it has a magnificent concert hall and an orchestra. If one wanted someone on the governing body — I do not want to mention individuals because they may have no interest in participating in the electoral process — who was the most appropriate person to advise in that area, it would seem to be [177] looking a gift horse in the mouth to insist that it could not be that person and that only someone else who qualified on the grounds of having graduated from that particular institution could fulfil the role. Institutions should be allowed use the talent in them, irrespective of where it has come from, to optimise the potential performance of the institution. These restrictions are increasingly out of date in terms of mobility inside and outside Ireland.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I support Senator Lee's amendment. Things will change in the long-term, so this section is quite restrictive. I wonder if the Minister has fully considered this matter. Electors should have the freedom to elect who they wish in the interests of democracy, even if they are graduates of a different university or college. The wording of the amendment may need to be changed, but it was tabled in the interests of democracy so that no one would interfere in the affairs of an individual university.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I also support Senator Lee's amendment. I assume the Minister will sympathise with it because she suggested that an infusion of blood on to the board from outside would be useful. It seems odd to narrow that representation. A large number of appointments may be from outside the university, which can be good, because otherwise it would become a hothouse atmosphere which can be unhelpful and almost incestuous. Disbarring someone because they are graduates of another university, although they are members of staff, creates a second class citizenship among distinguished people. I support Senator Lee in the interests of democracy and of broadening the board.

The Minister mentioned the need to have a broadly based representation on the board, but this section seems to narrow it to people who have grown up through the system within the college. I am sure some people who come from that background will be elected, but to automatically disbar people because they have not graduated from that university is a mistake, particularly since it is now regarded as good academic practice to try to ensure that people travel.

It is not now regarded as good practice to employ young academics, for example, in their own university. Sometimes this acts as a disadvantage. I have known some extremely brilliant and gifted students who should have got jobs in Trinity College because they were unquestionably the most outstanding people in the field. Yet they did not, because Trinity College was nervous about having a reputation for academic nepotism. I can think of at least two of them who went to UCD and did brilliantly there. I would like to think they would have the opportunity to serve their university. It could also be the case that a brilliant student would not be promoted in one of the constituent colleges of the National University of Ireland because it was sensitive to [178] this accusation of a hothouse atmosphere and an intellectual xenophobia. I would like to think they would be entitled to serve on the board and that they would not be disbarred merely because they got their qualification from a sister college.

Perhaps the Minister could explain if this applies to Trinity College. I know they are on a level playing field if they have a corresponding degree from a previously existing constituent college of the National University of Ireland. If someone, who got their degree from one of the previously existing colleges of the NUI is on the staff of Trinity College, would that be regarded as legitimising their position to be elected to the board?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  This amendment would have the effect of allowing graduate employees of any university to vote in the election of graduates on the governing authority of the university in which they are employed. They have a vote in the universities in which they are employed. They would have a right to vote for their own representatives under section 2 (d).

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It was the candidates Senator Lee was thinking of and not the voters.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  They could be a candidate. Senator Lee mentioned a professor of music in a certain university who I presume is a graduate of another university. There are two ways in which that person, who might be eminently suitable to serve on the governing authority of that university, could be appointed to it. One would be as a representative of the staff on the governing body and the other would be under the co-option clause which allows governing bodies to appoint people. That person would then have a graduate vote for the graduate representations in his own university. I have been told that if he has a couple of degrees from different universities he could vote as a graduate for both qualifications.

A particular person who is not a graduate of the University of Limerick could serve on its board as a staff representative having been co-opted by the board under the relevant headings. He or she would retain a voice as a graduate of the university from which he or she graduated. Therefore, people would have more than one vote but they would not have two votes for the same occasion.

Senator Lee was correct to raise the issue of an optional person. The situation I outlined highlights how a person could serve in the university in which they are employed while retaining a graduate voice in the university from which they graduated.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I am not really concerned with people having a graduate voice in the university from which they graduated. As graduates, they retain their right to vote at that institution. I am more concerned with their role in the university from which they did not graduate. The amendment [179] seeks to ensure that they have the same avenues of access to membership of the authority of the university at which they are employed as do graduates of that institution. I am becoming confused about this issue. However, if the Minister is satisfied that her response covers that situation, I accept her judgment. This issue involves a substantive point about the direction institutions should take.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am slightly confused. Under subsection (4) (b), could a graduate of the NUI be elected to the governing body of Trinity College?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  No.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Senator Lee's amendment suggests that a graduate of the NUI should be allowed to be a candidate under this section. The amendment is not concerned with the electorate but with the candidacy. It appears that the Senator has illustrated a valuable point. If a person is a member of staff of a university, they should be allowed to stand for election. If the graduates do not desire this they will put forward sufficient candidates to ensure it does not happen. However, a possible case exists, at least in hypothetical terms, that a distinguished graduate of the NUI who is a member of staff at Trinity College could be disbarred from standing for election.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  No, not on this panel.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I believe the amendment suggests that such a person could stand for election on this panel.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  We are discussing the graduate panel with which Members would be more familiar than those outside. There is an option for a graduate from another institution to serve on a governing body under section 15 (2) (d), which covers staff representation. A person of such eminence could be co-opted on to the board. This section provides a voice for the graduates of a particular institution in one of the categories that reflect the community of a university.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It is possible that the graduates might wish to nominate a person who is not a graduate of their university. The Minister referred to two methods by which someone could become a member of the authority but she modestly neglected to mention her power of appointment.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I will not press the amendment. I hope the discussion has been of use because of the implications involved.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Is amendment No. 48 being moved?

[180]Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  No, because I understand the Minister intends to return to the matter on Report Stage.

Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 50, 51, 63 and 65 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Amendment No. 50 not moved.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I move amendment No. 51:

In page 14, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following subparagraph:

“(iii) one member chosen by the academic staff of St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, so long as that College has an association by agreement or memorandum of understanding with the University,”.

This amendment suggests that there should be representation from St. Patrick's College on the board of Dublin City University as long as it retains an association or memorandum of understanding with the university. I believe that is a fair request.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 propose that the governing authority of Dublin City University should include a member of the academic staff of St. Patrick's College. Similarly, amendment No. 63 proposes that the governing authority of the University of Limerick include a member of the academic staff of Mary Immaculate College. I support the general thrust of the amendments' objectives but I consider that section 15 (6), as amended by Dáil Éireann, addresses the Senator's concerns. There was a lengthy debate on this issue on Committee Stage in the Dáil and the wording “Where an educational institution is associated with a university” is used in section 15 (6) to cover all eventualities. By employing that wording we are not limiting the options in respect of other institutions. The Senator's amendments, which refer to Mary Immaculate College and St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, will be covered by section 15 (6), which states “Where an educational institution is associated with a university in accordance with an agreement between that institution and the university and that agreement provides that the governing authority of the university shall have as members employees or students of the institution...”.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  That is satisfactory.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 51 a not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 52, 54, 55, 57, 58, 60 and 62 are related and may be discussed [181] together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I move amendment No. 52:

In page 14, subsection (5) (b), lines 43 and 44, to delete subparagraphs (i) and (ii).

I agree with the Chair's ruling, even though I have not yet come to grips with it. I understand that these amendments are related because they deal with an old favourite, namely, membership of a board. I do not know where is Senator Manning but he usually springs up like a jack-in-the-box when reference is made to county councils. However, I have no doubt that he will appear in the near future.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  He will be here in a moment.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  To whom is the Senator referring?

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Senator Manning.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  I would prefer that the Senator did not refer to another Member in their absence. I ask him to continue with the debate on amendment No. 52.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I apologise if I am in breach of the rules of the House. Amendment No. 52 returns to our old friend, the Lord Mayor of Cork, to whom we referred a short time ago. The Lord Mayor of Cork was recently appointed to the board of An Bord Gáis and if the section is passed as it stands he will not only be an expert in gas but also in third level education. Coincidentally, every Lord Mayor of Cork will be an expert in those areas. This illustrates to some extent the anomaly and absurdity of appointing a person by virtue of the office they hold, which has nothing to do with the two appointments they automatically received by courtesy of the Government. I will not harp on the Lord Mayor of Cork, who, I am informed, is extraordinarily decent and nice and is well loved.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  That is more than one could say about the Lord Mayor of Dublin.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  It is more than one could say about the Lord Mayor of Waterford, with whom I am not familiar. It is absurd that people are being appointed to the boards of universities by virtue of the fact that they are lords mayor of various towns. There is no guarantee that these people have the necessary, if any, expertise to serve on such boards.

I do not wish to say anything which might be provocative or lengthen the debate. Therefore, I will not mention county councillors except in passing. This section deals with county councils. It is extraordinary that they have provoked a reaction on sections in respect of which they should not have been discussed. I do not wish to give Members an excuse make speeches to their electorates once again. However, I do not believe [182] that these provisions, to which I have proposed amendments, should be in the Bill. There are plenty of suitable places for county councillors but they should not automatically be on the boards of universities.

I notice that many Senators wish to speak on this matter — they are as predictable as ever. I know the counter argument is that county councillors should not be excluded by virtue of their being county councillors, but that is not a valid argument. I can think of many others who would have a greater claim to be on the boards of universities than those who hold the office of lord mayor of various towns.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I am sorry my colleague Senator Ross personalised the issue in terms of the Lord Mayor of Cork. He is an extraordinarily nice and decent fellow who will not combine An Bord Gáis with the university governing body because lords mayor change on an annual basis. It can be useful to have alternative viewpoints coming on board, so to speak. The present Lord Mayor of Cork is a respected teacher in Cork education circles and would have a perspective to bring to bear on education in general which may be extremely valuable.

I take the point Senator Ross makes that there is no guarantee that the qualities of an office holder at a particular time will be ideally suited to the membership of a governing authority. However, the personalities of many other members may not be ideally suited, whether they are from inside or outside the institution. It is unbalanced to single out lords mayor in this way for special opprobrium. My experience of the lords mayor who have served on the governing body of my college is that they have made a valuable contribution.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  I challenge one of Senator Ross's basic assumptions on subsection (5) (b) (i) and (ii) which refers to the Lord Mayor of Cork and the Mayor of Waterford. He said he would object to their presence on the board because they might not have administrative ability and would not be able to operate in an effective manner. I question that assumption because he is implying that academics, because they are academics, have the qualities necessary to be members of the board. That does not follow. To follow Senator Ross's logic there would have to be a testing procedure to find out if the academics have the qualities he feels members of the board should have.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I challenge Senator Ross's assertion that a lord mayor would not have the expertise to qualify as a member of a governing body. Who is to say that is the case? We cannot question their ability. The fact that they are elected representatives is a clear indication that they are capable people. It is presumptuous of Senator Ross to say that those public representatives do not have the necessary expertise. They [183] are elected representatives and that is good enough.

We have tabled amendment No. 57 to increase from five to eight the number of elected members of a local authority elected by the members of the General Council of County Councils who will be on the governing body of UCD and I am glad the Minister has indicated that she agrees with the amendment. I am a member of the General Council of County Councils and we have had fine discussions on this issue. UCD should have a wide representation because of the number of students there and the number of courses it provides. The communities and the universities must interact. We can only achieve that through the elected representatives who know their communities and can bring that knowledge to the governing body.

The Minister should agree to our amendment to reflect a greater membership from the General Council of County Councils.

Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  I remind Senator Ross that our civilisation is based on the fact that people chose to live in cities. Limerick city has had mayors for an unbroken period of 800 years. That represents 800 years of civilised living. To say that the Mayor of Limerick is not fit to represent the people of the city on the board of the University of Limerick or that the chairman of Limerick County Council is not fit to represent the people of the county on the board of the university is an insult to a bastion of our civilisation. Next year we will celebrate 100 years of unbroken, democratic local government.

As in other aspects of his contributions, I find Senator Ross's remarks on this section undemocratic. He is trying to undermine the basis of democracy. We must reject his argument that there should be no elected representatives on the boards of universities. We represent the ordinary people against the elite who Senator Ross seems to represent.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I am an elected county councillor.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  There is some confusion. No one is saying that the present Lord Mayor of Cork is unfit. However, to make a person a member of a board automatically by virtue of their office is outrageous. One may not be able to say automatically that a lord mayor is unsuited but the system will inevitably throw up some lords mayor who are pig-ignorant and prejudiced. Senators should be aware that this occurred in the past. Senator Kelly referred to the 800 years of the distinguished city of Limerick——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  The Senator should use temperate language in describing lords mayor.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It is that it is mathematically unquestionable that somebody with the qualities I mentioned will be thrown up. If we look back [184] over an 800 year period we should find royalists, Jacobins and people who were strongly against Catholic emancipation who were lords mayor. I could name lords mayor from the 18th century who fought bitterly against Catholic emancipation. These are the people Senator Kelly thinks are so wonderfully enlightened because they were thrown up by our democracy. Who is she fooling?

Almost all Members have a vested interest being county councillors, Senator Ross included. However, I am not. They are praising themselves and that is small praise indeed. I am saying this simply by virtue of the office. I am not personalising this or naming anyone, although I am tempted. I have frequently referred to some of the elected Members in the past on the basis that I remember approaching the so-called cultural committee of Dublin Corporation 15 years ago. If there was ever an oxymoron it was that august body. The office of Lord Mayor is often elected in the most shabby and venal manner, on the basis of party arrangements, tricks and chances and who arranged this, that and the other. We should not elevate this to the level where no one will believe it. If Senator Kelly believes that in the 800 years of the mayoralty of Limerick every single one of them was qualified to be on the board of a university, she should go back to her history books. This is not an attack on the city of Limerick or its mayor.

The principle is that someone should not be placed on a board just by virtue of their political office. We spoke earlier about the penetration of boards by political interests. It is not enough that the Minister has provided for between two to five members of local councils to be represented on a board but some Senators want eight——

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  We would take ten if we could get it.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  ——without bothering about their qualifications. Some Senators and their cronies want to fill eight seats. It is disgusting, morally revolting and totally self interested.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  I think some of the Senators making contributions are trying to rise me. Some of the things they are saying are totally out of order. They, especially Senator Ross, have contradicted themselves so many times. He accused politicians and the Minister of jobbery, he said her people would be appointed and that they in turn would appoint their own hacks to positions on boards. We should be fair. The position of the Lord Mayor of Cork and the Mayor of Waterford rotates between different political parties every year. I cannot see how any Minister for Education could appoint her own people to governing bodies all the time. Senator Norris said a moron could be appointed Lord Mayor.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  No. I said someone who was pig ignorant and prejudiced.

[185]Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  That would be only one person out of 38 on the governing body. Surely the other 37 could control that one person, if there is such a moron? If they cannot they should not be on the governing body either.

In the amendment proposed by Senator Ormonde and me, the eight members will not be appointed, as Senator Ross said. The General Council of County Councils consists of three representatives from every county council in Ireland. I do not have to tell some Senators this as they know it already but perhaps Senator Ross and Senator Norris do not. The general council nominates and elects eight people to the governing body of UCD every year. These are not eight Labour, Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael people chosen by the Minister. They are selected by members of county councils. Many members of county councils are teachers and academics. There are quite a number of doctors and solicitors on the governing body of UCD. If they are not fit company for Senator Ross, I do not know what to say.

I never objected to Senator Ross complaining about members of a local authority. I complained about the language he used, the manner in which he insulted members of county councils and the derogatory remarks he passed about them. I never objected to him putting up an argument to keep members of county councils out. I object to his sneering and the manner in which he put his remarks. No member of any county council, of any party, should be besmirched by anybody in this way. Senator Ross has downgraded members of local authorities, who are good people looking after the problems of rural Ireland. I am proud and glad to be associated with Senator Ormonde's amendment.

Section 15 (5) (b) (iv) states “not less than two or more than five persons elected by the councils of the administrative Counties of Cork, Waterford, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary (North Riding) and Tipperary (South Riding).” This means six counties are allowed five members so one county will lose out. I may be wrong about this, but it is puzzling.

We are elected by members of county councils, outgoing Senators and Dáil Deputies. We are proud to get their vote. If Senator Ross thinks I am patronising him, he is right. They are my electorate and he would do the same for his, if he was a man.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  I want to keep this discussion calm. However, I regret to say there is an extraordinary and ugly seam of snobbery running through some of Senator Ross's contributions. It is almost as if we were back in the days when the peasantry should doff their caps to the ascendancy.

I have 22 years' experience on the governing body of University College, Dublin, and I have been a member of the NUI Senate for the past 12 or 15 years. I think I know a great deal about the NUI and UCD. Senator Ross is telling me the people I can have on my governing body. What [186] right does he have to do that? How many people has he consulted in the NUI or UCD? The Minister has consulted all the governing bodies and the wider faculties. She is coming to the House following democratic consultation to give us the distilled views of the universities as to who they want on their boards. What right does Senator Ross have to tell me who I can have as my colleagues on the governing body of UCD?

It has been my privilege to serve with the elected members of the General Council of County Councils. I found them splendid colleagues who never divided on party lines and always had the best interests of the university and the wider community at heart. I make no excuse for saying that and I am proud to do so. I am not saying it for electoral reasons but because I know it to be true and I believe it. I ask Senator Ross to allow us the sincerity of our motives without saying “he would do that, wouldn't he?” I am saying it because I believe and know it to be true.

I agree with many of Senator Norris's contributions. However, he stated that there could be a Lord Mayor of Cork or Limerick who was pig ignorant and prejudiced. I know many academics, professors of English, History and Economics, who are narrow, ignorant and bigoted bullies. These people are half daft and so narrow and driven in their own particular discipline, they have no view of the wider world, except their own selfish interest. We all know them. A professor of English could be a fellow of Trinity — I am sure it has happened in the past — and fit some or all of these characteristics. The matter should be looked at in totality.

By and large I have found that the Lords Mayor of Dublin have not made a very large contribution. As they only hold the office for a year, they do not have very much to say and do not get to know the situation very well. The same may be true of Cork. However, this tradition has been in operation for a long time and it has certainly done no harm. A lord mayor may do a great deal of good on occasion. There is no body of views in UCD or in UCC which is arguing that lords mayor should not be represented. Most lords mayor are reasonable and decent people who do not try to impose obnoxious views on others. Those views usually come from within the universities themselves. Senator Fitzgerald and I speak from many years of elected service on the governing body and we are happy with what is being proposed.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  I agree with Senator Norris when he says that it is possible from time to time to have a lord mayor who is “a bit off”. However, as Senator Fitzgerald said, it is surely possible for the other members of the governing body to control such a person. Senator Manning said that a certain number of academics are decidedly off; some are seated not too far from here.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  Which side of the House are they sitting on?

[187]Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  I am not looking in any particular direction.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  No doubt the people to whom the Senator is referring would benefit from his skilled treatment.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  If they were members of VHI, I would be glad to help. I do not accept Senator Ross's comments. We have listened to sufficient pusillanimous meanderings from this party hopping inflated flea. What do councillors in County Wicklow, decent people like Pat Vance, Joe Behan and so on, think of their fellow councillor?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  The Senator should be aware that it is not appropriate to name people. Will the Senator please speak on the amendment?

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  It is an insulting to councillors to make such comments. The Government has introduced much legislation the aim of which is to have good local government. On occasions, attempts have been made to remove councillors from boards and diminish their participation. I am glad to note that the Minister has indicated that she will look favourably on this amendment.

What kind of qualifications do councillors need to be members of governing authorities? I know some councillors who are poor and others who live in mansions. I know of one councillor who drives a Rolls Royce. I know councillors who are barristers, doctors, fishermen and farmers. What disqualifies these people, particularly as they have as many votes behind them in local elections as my colleague has in the university ones? Councillors are just as qualified as anybody else and perhaps have a great deal more savvy than some of the academics sitting round the table with them. Men such as Senators McGowan and Fitzgerald have great nous and knowledge of the affairs of the real world as opposed to the abstruse affairs of academia. Councillors on governing authorities would bring the other lofty people down to earth and would formulate regulations for universities. I support this amendment and I hope the Minister will look favourably on it.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Senator Manning covered this issue very well and I compliment him on that. I welcome Senator Lee's observations on the Lord Mayor of Cork but the comments made by Senators Ormonde and Fitzgerald can only be deemed to be an insult to the honoured positions of the Lord Mayor of Cork and the Mayor of Waterford. They are nothing short of that.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I support my colleagues and I compliment Senators Ormonde and Fitzgerald on tabling a specific amendment in relation to councillors. I support the consensus view on councillors which prevails among those of us who live in the real world. Since entering this House, I and a number of the other Senators have attempted to [188] defend what we perceive to be an erosion of the position of councillors. I do not know where this started; it seems to go back through several Administrations into the 1980s and it has continued since then. When parliamentary draftsmen discuss Bills requiring a representative grouping of people to be appointed to boards, the legislation includes a section which disbars councillors from taking their place on these. County councillors are a representative group who have traditionally served on boards of one type or another. This trend was allowed to develop unfettered until last year when the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Rabbitte, introduced a Bill to set up the new science and technology board. He conceded that he saw no merit — I recall that the Leader of the House was of the same view — in having legislation which disbarred elected representatives from various boards. I hope that precedent will be followed. This amendment has been tabled in that spirit.

I am saddened by Senator Ross's comments, though they do not make me angry any more. I am surprised, however, at the comments made by Senator Norris, a person who has suffered a great deal of discrimination and who should be the last person to discriminate against others. His comments are discriminatory and they set aside a group of people in society who voluntarily give of their time and expertise, such as it is, for the greater good and nothing else. Yet, the Senator comes into the House and uses what I consider to be unacceptable language. The Leader of the House has acknowledged that. I object to that kind of elitism and bigoted racism against elected representatives who have been pilloried on more than one occasion in this House by people who should know better. It is in that context that I register my support for the amendment. I am pleased that the Minister seems to have indicated her approval, hopefully her response will indicate that she sees merit in the amendment.

I know a number of people who currently serve and have served on the governing bodies of universities and I have been struck by the fact that, in the main, they do not necessarily come from an academic background. A fellow county man of mine, who is the vice-principal of a 600 pupil school in Carrick-on-Shannon, serves on the governing body of UCG and enjoys his tenure there.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  The Senator's comments are more appropriate to a Second Stage debate though I realise the section is a very important one. I ask the Senator to keep his comments relevant to the amendment.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I feel strongly about this issue which transcends the entire issue of the allegations that councillors are merely looking after their electorate, something they are entitled to do. I do not believe that it is right and proper in an elected democracy that there should be such a negative strain of thinking, at the highest [189] academic level, among people who are training a new generation to go out into the world. It is not acceptable that these people adopt and convey an ingrained attitude to their students that a section of our society, which is democratically elected, is somehow flawed and should be corralled somewhere in order to prevent them becoming involved in something which is of vital importance to them, their families and the wider society.

Those who participate on governing bodies are proud of their involvement and take their responsibilities seriously. I am saddened rather than angry particularly by the language adopted by Senator Norris because I have great admiration for him and usually agree with his comments.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I ask the Minister to accept the amendment proposed by Senators Ormonde and Fitzgerald. I was disappointed by Senator Ross's contribution regarding councillors on the governing body of UCD. I have been a member of Mayo County Council for many years, a position I shared with Commissioner Pádraig Flynn, the Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy Enda Kenny, and the former Minister, Mr. Paddy O'Toole. Senator Ross is saying that such people are not fit to be on the governing body of UCD. His logic is that he himself is not fit to be a member.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  That is correct.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I think he is fit to be a member. Councillors give freely of their time; they have been serving the needs of people since the foundation to the State. They bring much advice and experience to various boards. Mayo County Council, for example, administers hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants annually to various universities. Councillors are familiar with the points system, grants, fees and the administrative structures of universities. Councillors make up a cross section of people, with qualifications ranging from general knowledge to the highest levels of education. They bring vast experience to their work.

I support the amendment and ask the Minister to accept it. I congratulate the Senators who tabled it. I wish to reiterate my disappointment with Senator Ross's contribution. He is fit to be a member of the governing body of any university.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I concur with Senator Mooney. On another occasion the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment agreed that public representatives should play a role in administering and advising at board level. I congratulate Senators Ormonde, Fitzgerald, Dardis and O'Toole for tabling this amendment.

It is very easy to recognise the Members who were councillors before being elected to the Oireachtas. Their vast experience is obvious. We are enriched by our experience as councillors. We are the honoured public representatives, with the [190] exception of our colleagues who are elected from the University Panel. County councillors work between 30 and 50 hours per week on a voluntary basis administering local authority decisions. In County Westmeath, for example, there is an annual budget of £22 million to be administered.

I support the amendment. Politics will be the poorer when we fail to acknowledge and recognise the great work done by local representatives through local authorities and the Houses of the Oireachtas. The public purse will no longer be administered in a way that recognises the demands and needs of the people. I support a mix at board level and involving public representatives is one way of achieving this.

Mr. Cregan: Information on Denis Cregan  Zoom on Denis Cregan  Sometimes I wonder whether ordinary people should be allowed into this House and sometimes I get the impression that certain people should be in certain places. That was the impression I got when I was in the Chair this evening. During discussion of an earlier amendment I wondered whether only certain people should attend Trinity College. I am a former Lord Mayor of Cork and, to my misfortune, was on the governing body of UCC for 12 months. I was amazed at the level of internal conflict. As an urban councillor if I was seen to be doing, some of the things faculties in UCC were doing I would not last a week. I certainly would not be reelected.

Senator Ross's argument is totally inconsistent. Earlier he was looking for certain rights for everybody. Now he only wants rights for certain people. He did not say whom he thinks should be on the boards, he only said who should be excluded. I ask him to name who can best represent the people on the boards.

As a former Lord Mayor of Cork I was embarrassed to be on the governing body of UCC. I ask the Minister to seriously consider this amendment which provides for the ordinary person to be represented on these boards. All public bodies which do not include public representatives should be examined. I sat on the board of UCC on behalf of the people of Cork and I was glad to leave it. UCC is over 150 years old and I am very proud of it. The first job I got was in 1954 at the age of 13 years and nine months in UCC under Professor O'Reilly. The subsequent presidents were Mr. Hurley and Mr. Carey. The current president, Mr. Mortell, has his hands full dealing with the governing body because there are people on it who are not realistic.

Nobody can say I am not realistic. I believe in basics more than anybody else. Saying that the former Lord Mayor of Cork should not serve on the governing body does not go down well with people. It is a massive mistake for any Government to decide that public representatives should not serve on such boards. We must demand recognition for the role public representatives play on behalf of ordinary people. The previous amendment said that snobs should be looking after the snobs in Trinity College, that only snobs [191] should go to Trinity College because the snobs said so. I defy anybody to offer an alternative interpretation of that amendment. Five Independent Senators were in favour of a division but only two voted for the amendment. If that is democracy, perhaps the Senators could explain it to me. Perhaps I should ask UCC to explain it.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  Ask Trinity.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  Try UCC first.

Mr. Cregan: Information on Denis Cregan  Zoom on Denis Cregan  Is it democracy that five people support a call for a division and only two vote for an amendment? I sat on a governing body where everybody had a fair say.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  This is an emotive subject and the Minister will be tired before the debate is over. Senator Norris referred to the possibility of an appointee being pig ignorant and prejudiced. Some good may yet come of this discussion because people occasionally recognise when they are prejudiced. We have listened to enough prejudice in the last few hours.

Section 15 (5) (b) (ii) and (ii) is being treated differently from section 15 (2) (a) and other subsections relating to staff. The terrible prejudice and arrogance running through the contributions must be confronted but that can only be done by the academics involved. They are not even listening to the debate which is probably another display of arrogance and disrespect for people generally. The Senators should consider what they are saying. They believe there is a subspecies of people who are not fit to serve on boards but that others, just because they are academics, are automatically capable of sitting on boards and handling administration rather than teaching. that assumption is running through the debate. some academics have the ability to sit on boards but others, just because they are politicians or ministerial appointees, are under question.

Senator Norris mentioned the possibility of somebody being pig ignorant and prejudiced. The Senator should examine his conscience and ask himself from where that comment came. It is based on incredible prejudice and arrogance because the Lords Mayor of Cork and Waterford are elected by bodies. The presumption in the debate on previous provisions was that certain people would be fine. However, the presumption with regard to this amendment is that pig ignorance and prejudice will appear. I hope Members confront their own pig ignorance, prejudice and arrogance because that is the only way to dissipate it.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  It is disappointing that two schools of thought have emerged with regard to amendment No. 57, but one learns more from the school of the majority. The amendment involves a small increase from five to eight in the number [192] of elected members. I support that and I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Perhaps the Minister could reply at this point.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I have attempted to defend my point of view. I am happy for the Minister to reply but we should move on.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Chair is attempting to progress the discussion by calling the Minister at this point. Members can then make interventions if they wish.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Senator Ross's amendments Nos. 52, 54, 55, 58, 60 and 62, which suggest that county councillors should not be on any governing authorities, are not acceptable. The proposals relate to the NUI and I ask the two Independent Senators who contributed to this lengthy debate to note that, under section 15 (5) (f), the fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, reflect tradition on the board.

I considered amendment No. 57 and I indicated previously that I support the valuable and important role played by county councillors. I want the position whereby councillors are already represented on governing authorities to continue. I have a particular interest in the education of young people. I want to ensure that they will be prepared to participate in democracy in future. I am anxious to ensure that the Bill does not diminish the role of those who reflect society and are prepared to stand for public election. If the House considers that an increase in the number of representatives on governing authorities is desirable, I will introduce an amendment to that effect on Report Stage.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I want to be clear that the number will be increased from five to eight. Will the Minister introduce an amendment on Report Stage to that effect?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Yes.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  I thank the Minister.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I understand the eagerness to curtail the discussion on this matter. However, Members should congratulate and thank me for giving them an opportunity to speak to their electorate. Most of them have taken that opportunity; I have never encountered such unanimity in the House on such an issue. I wish to make a point about lords mayor.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  This is not about lords mayor.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  One of the amendments addresses the position of lords mayor. I am a county councillor and it is fair to say that I have been involved in certain deals and agreements of which I am not proud. One of those transactions involves the election of the chairman of the county council. [193] Chairmen of county councils are great people in many ways but they are selected through deals between political parties which specifically exclude other people. I understand lords mayor are also selected in that manner.

I am a member of Wicklow County Council and a deal was done in 1991 which ensured that Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil held the chair for eight years to the exclusion of everybody else. The chairmanship rotates between those parties, regardless of merit, as a result of a political deal. Nobody considers anything about the election of a chairman other than that deal. It is a division of the spoils. I am fed up with the bogus, pious and sanctimonious nonsense in the debate about lords mayor. They are wonderful people but every committee and post to which they are elected is the result of wheeling and dealing.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  The Senator is wrong.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Everybody knows that is the case.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  Pious hypocrisy.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  They are divided proportionally among the political parties. That is the truth. There is no university in Wicklow, but if the chairman of Wicklow County Council was in the same position as the lords mayor under this Bill and was automatically placed on the board of a university, it would be simply and solely as a result of political horse trading. The lords mayor may be good and the position may promote suitable people from time to time but the person holds the office as a result of political horse trading and let us not pretend otherwise.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Politics is the art of the possible.

Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  What is wrong with political horse trading?

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  Is academic horse trading all right?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Senator Ross without interruption.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  It is time we told the truth about this and I make no apology for saying it. I admit I have participated in a deal of that sort and it is not something of which I am proud.

Mr. Cregan: Information on Denis Cregan  Zoom on Denis Cregan  In other words, Senator Ross is not consistent.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  That is the political system within which we work and one of the reforms which is necessary. Senator Cregan is right — I am not always consistent, nor is anyone in this House. Like everyone else, I sometimes do things for political advantage — perhaps the Senator does not believe me.

Let us hear the reasons that councillors should be on these bodies. Senators Manning and Lydon [194] were the two stars of the debate. Senator Manning said “it has done no harm”. What an appalling reason for putting something into legislation. That is extraordinary. It is not the reason he wants it to be included but it is the reason he gives. He says they are reasonable, decent people — that is another great qualification for being on the boards. Any reasonable, decent person can apply. We have not heard a justification except that they are political cronies.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  They are elected.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I am a political crony and I should not be on the board of a university by virtue of that. Senator Lydon took great advantage of this debate to name two of his constituents and say they were wonderful people who would be great on the board of a university. He may or may not believe that but it is not the purpose of this amendment to give Senators the opportunity to address their electorate by name.

This is a serious point which has not been seriously debated and has been misrepresented. People have seized on expressions such as Senator Norris's remark about people being pig ignorant, There are pig ignorant people in every walk of life — academia, journalism, everywhere. There is no doubt about that. People are only prickly about that remark when the people constitute their electorate.

This amendment has provoked an extraordinary attendance in the House which would not happen if world war was declared or if we decided to invade the North tomorrow. It is not a coincidence that they are here for the debate. I congratulate everyone for staying up so late and being so passionate on an issue about which they feel extraordinarily strongly. If the debate had been held three or four years ago we might not have quite such a good attendance.

Let us not have such a bogus argument. There are two sides to this matter but we have not heard the argument in favour of putting lords mayor and councillors on the boards of universities — we have heard people preaching to their electorate.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am tempted to reply to some of what was said but I am sure there will be another occasion. It would be a great pity if the debate were sidetracked into the merits and demerits of councillors, lords mayor, etc. Senator Manning scored a point in saying that some members of universities were pig ignorant and perverse — that is perfectly fair. My argument is that people should not be placed on boards simply by virtue of an accident of political office. I am happy to leave it there because there is a danger that this important Bill may be diverted on this point until we all get so tired that later matters are not given sufficient debate. I reserve my fire but if anyone wants my views on the historic, apostolic succession of lords mayor — especially in Dublin, of which I have personal experience — I am happy [195] to make this information available in private. The Lords Mayor of Dublin have been a mixed bunch — some excellent but others pig ignorant and prejudiced, and I have the documentary evidence to demonstrate it.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I thank the Minister for facilitating us on this amendment. All it does is restore the status quo. The figure was eight, it had been reduced but it has now been changed back. Reasonable, decent and honest people — who have been elected by reasonable, decent, honest people — will serve on this board. There are also academics who are reasonable, decent and honest. I am all for equality and the reflection of the needs of the community, which is part of the reason that public representatives should sit on the boards. I am pleased the amendment has been accepted and it was worth the debate. We need such a debate every now and then to assure our electorate that they are well-established, good at their job and should be there.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Is amendment No. 52 being pressed?

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  It does not have a good chance of being accepted.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  The Senator can be sure of that.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  On a point of order, will there be an amendment on Report Stage similar to amendment No. 57?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Yes, the Minister will meet that amendment on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendments Nos. 53, 56 and 59 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 53:

In page 14, subsection (5) (b) (iii), line 45, after “the” to insert “Senate of the”.

This is to make assurance doubly sure but there is no need for it so I will withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 54, 54a, 55 to 58, inclusive, 58a, 59, 60, 60a and 60b not moved.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I move amendment No. 61:

In page 15, subsection (5) (f), line 26, to delete “university” and substitute “college”.

This is a drafting amendment. There is a distinction between the university and the college, as is understood by the Minister and her advisers. Trinity College does the teaching but the University of Dublin awards the degrees. It was originally [196] intended that there should be other colleges of the university and, technically speaking, fellows belong to the college rather than to the university. I hope the Minister will accept this drafting amendment.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I wish to support the amendment on behalf of Senator Henry who is not present.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Section 4 defines Trinity College as a university to which this Bill will apply. Therefore, the reference to “university” in section 15 (5) (f) concerns Trinity College and the proposed amendment is not strictly necessary. Indeed, the charter of 1592 refers to the college as the mother of a university. I agree with Senators that the amendment is a relatively simple one and I am not opposed to it. However, I ask them to consider the issue further so that we can consider whether the amendment should be made on Report Stage. I would add that if the amendment is to be made the reference should be to “College” rather than “college”.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am happy to accept that the Minister will return with an amendment with a capital “C”. It is fine by me if she proposes to table it as her own amendment, or would she prefer if I tabled it on Report Stage?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I will return with an amendment on Report Stage.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I will still claim it as my amendment in my election literature.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 61a, 62, 63, 63a, 64 and 65 not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 66:

In page 16, subsection (7), line 4, to delete “or (4)”.

This returns to the issue of employees of universities. The Minister addressed some of the issues which arise out of this earlier. In the circumstances, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendment No. 68 is related to amendment No. 67 and both may be taken together by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 67:

In page 16, subsection (9), lines 16 and 17, to delete “or (c) who are nominated by organisations representative of business or industry”.

I have deleted the wrong line in this amendment. I had intended to delete the following line which reads “or who, in the opinion of the Minister, are representative of business or industry”. What is the distinction between those who are nominated [197] by organisations representative of business and those who, in the opinion of the Minister, are representative of business? Is it intended that if the organisations fail to make a nomination the Minister shall then make a nomination?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Yes.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  The purpose of amendment No. 68 is to give the governing authority a power which the Minister seems to have taken upon herself. It addresses the subject of those who are nominated by organisations representative of business or industry. I do not understand the point of the last part of subsection (9) which states “or who, in the opinion of the Minister, are representative of business or industry”. There does not seem to be an alternative — they are either organisations which are representative of industry or business or they are not. I have puzzled over this subsection several times and I would like it explained to me.

The amendment I have tabled seeks to substitute the “governing authority” for the “Minister” because I do not see why the interpretation should be up to the Minister. The interpretation of who represents business or industry can be extremely wide. Business and industry is a very broad ship, whether large or small. There is an obligation on the Minister to define what she means by business. Wearing another hat, I often have a problem with how far the definition of “business” can be extended. There seems to be a very wide definition of those who are involved in business.

What does the Minister intend this to mean and how broad does she intend the parameters to be? If she is going to interpret this very widely, we ought to know that. I would prefer to leave it up to the governing body to decide who is representative of business or industry rather than the Minister, which is consistent with what I have said about the rest of the Bill. Will she give us a definition of “business”?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Section 15(3)(a) already requires that one such person be representative of business. If a university decides it will only have one such person, subsection (9) requires that one of the Minister's nominees will have to be representative of business. Therefore, where a governing authority has one ministerial nominee and one wider community representative, both must be representative of business or industry. It means there must be two of these representatives, and there are a number of ways in which this can come about.

I consider that representation from business on university governing authorities is desirable. The present provision is in keeping with the recommendation of the Moriarty task force on the implementation of the Culliton report. It gives practical recognition to interaction between universities and the business sector by ensuring the business sector has an input into the decision [198] making processes in the universities. This subsection ensures that will be the case.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I thank the Minister for clarifying that. However, why should it be in the opinion of the Minister that they are representative of business or industry rather than that of the governing authority? That is what the amendment is about.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  It is because it is on the nomination of the Minister. We do not agree on this but I believe, given the fact that the nomination comes from the Minister, that the governing authority having one ministerial nominee and one wider community representative will ensure business or industry is represented on the board. This definition of the nominations is cognisant of the recommendations of the Moriarty task force and the Culliton report in its practical recognition of the interaction between the universities and the business sector.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I do not think we will reach any agreement on that. What does the Minister mean by the term “business”?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I believe “business” is a commonly understood term, although the Senator may offer definitions. However, in other legislation with which I have been involved in this and the other House we have not experienced difficulties with having a common understanding of the term “business”.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I am not trying to be awkward but I have a difficulty every day with how wide that sphere extends. That is very important because this clause will include or exclude certain types of people. What exactly does the Minister mean by “business” in this context? How wide does it go? Does it include professionals? Would it include, for instance, teachers, people on school boards, barristers, architects and those in small and part-time business? It is important that we know the meaning of the word “business”.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  In this section it is intended that those engaged in business would be involved in commercial and economic activities. As an elected public representative I do not engage in business and do not, therefore, work with profit and loss accounts and financial matters. I do not employ people; I represent them. People would have no difficulty in excluding me from a definition of business activities, which involve commercial transactions. If we accept the Moriarty task force report and note the partnerships with the business community that Trinity College has already established without statute provision, it is clear that the university, other Members of the House and I have no difficulty in reaching a common understanding of what is meant by those engaged in business.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[199] Amendment No. 68 not moved.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I move amendment No. 69:

In page 16, subsection (10), line 22, delete “or approved by the Minister” and substitute “or approved by the governing authority”.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  If the governing authority had the power to approve a gender balance other than a gender balance determined by the Minister it would provide the governing authority with an opportunity not to attempt to have a fair gender balance. I would prefer that the Minister would retain the power to approve a gender balance, other than that he or she had determined, where it is apparent that the authority had attempted to attain that balance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed: “That section 15 stand part of the Bill”.

Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  Concern has been expressed by the University of Limerick about section 15(5)(g)(iii). The university is anxious that the persons nominated to the governing body by the University of Limerick Foundation would not be employees of the university but would be chosen from outside the university to give a balance to the governing body. Will the Minister advise that this is what the legislation implies?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I note the Senator's comments but I do not want to involve myself with a commitment, because if I say I will address this matter on Report Stage there is an understanding that I am taking on board the point that has been made.

Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  I was seeking clarification. I am not pressing the Minister for an amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendments Nos. 69b and 70 are related to amendment No. 69a and all may be discussed together.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I move amendment No. 69a:

In page 16, subsection (3), line 43, to delete “vote of not less than two-thirds”.

Section 16(3) states:

Where the governing authority decides at a meeting that a person other than the chief officer should be the chairperson, it shall, as soon as practicable at that or a subsequent meeting, by a majority vote of not less than two-thirds of its members, appoint a person who is not an employee of the university or a member of the governing authority to be the chairperson.

[200] I am at a loss to understand why there should be a majority vote of not less than two-thirds. It should be possible to make an appointment by majority.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Dáil Éireann agreed to the insertion of a requirement that where a chairperson other than the president is appointed there must be a majority vote of not less than two-thirds of the members of the governing authority. This suggestion was initially proposed by Deputies Martin and Coughlan to the select committee considering the Bill. It is important that such a person would have the strong support of the governing authority and therefore I would not favour its deletion.

Amendment No. 69b proposes that where the chairperson is other than the president or the provost, he or she should not be an employee or student of the university. However, I could not support a position where, for example, a professor was answerable to the governing authority and to the chief officer on relevant issues and yet chaired the governing authority.

I do not support the deletion of subsection (6), as proposed by Senator Ormonde in amendment No. 70. I consider that the power of the governing authority to remove the chairperson should apply where it has appointed a chairperson other than the chief officer. It is only fair that the governing authority can remove from office somebody it appointed.

In excluding the chief officer from the removal power, my aim is to ensure that the Bill does not undermine the position of the chief officer in a university. Removal from the office of chairperson would be such a serious step that it is unlikely that any governing authority could contemplate it unless it also proposed to remove the chief officer from office.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I understand that the Minister feels strongly about this but I still fail to understand why a majority of two-thirds is necessary. The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that this is done by a majority by removing the proviso of a two-thirds majority. The purpose is to make it simpler and easier and not to lock the governing authority by a two-thirds provision. It is dangerous to include it in legislation. It is most unusual for such a clause to be included in legislation of this kind. The Minister has not provided me with a satisfactory explanation for its inclusion.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  One would hope this would not be the case, but if the appointment as chairperson of somebody other than the chief officer arises it may be very divisive. It is important that whoever takes the chair does so with a clear majority of the board. Otherwise there would be a factionalised governing authority, which would be a potential poison within the institution of the university.

[201]Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  The Minister appears to be giving preference under section 16 to the appointment of the chief officer as the chairperson of the board. In any co-operative or business, the chief executive is answerable to the board. That does not apply here. It is vitally important the chief officer should be answerable where board membership is being extended. In my county, there was a great deal of difference between the president and registrar. If the registrar has a point to make and the president is chairman, would it be difficult for him or her to make a case in an impartial way and for the president to operate fairly in these matters?

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  Many resolutions require a two-thirds majority. An example that comes to mind is that it takes two-thirds of a county council to fire a county manager.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The president is the chairperson of NUI colleges but there is a provision for an outside chairperson. It is important there is a requirement that a strong support structure exists. Otherwise, the workings of the governing body may become difficult.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 69b and 70 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 16 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Is there a preference for the chief officer to be the chairman of the board?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  There is something to be said for an outside chairperson but only for a person who would have the level of support outlined in the Bill. NUI colleges have presidents and that is not being disturbed. They will make decisions on how that will be carried on after their term.

Question put and agreed to.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I move amendment No. 71:

In page 17, subsection (1), lines 30 and 31, to delete paragraph (a) and substitute the following:

“(a) to manage the performance of the functions of the university and to control and administer the property and other assets of the university.”.

The words “to control” are strong and it would be more acceptable to state “to manage the performance of the functions of the university and to control and administer the property and other assets of the university”.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  A reference to the functions of the university in section 17(1)(a) is not necessary [202] and could lead to confusion. Given that the section refers to other property, the reference to assets is necessary. The proposal to rephrase with regard to the functions would make us more confused. However, I acknowledge the good intention behind the Senator's amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 72 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendment No. 76 is related to amendment No. 73 and both may be discussed together, by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 73.:

In page 17, subsection (2), line 42, after “and ” to insert “such other advertising, search and consultative procedures”.

The appointment of a president or a chief officer is the single most important decision that at governing authority can take and it is desirable that the mechanisms be defined and developed as effectively as possible for that. If a governing authority gets the decision right, a large part of the Bill will fall into place effectively as will university performance. If it does not get this right, it will be an uphill battle in terms of getting the best possible candidate. In the tradition of appointments we have not developed the most searching exploratory techniques for recruiting the widest range of candidates. We have sometimes been fortunate with our presidents, but the procedures have partly meant that no college — National University or Trinity College — has ever appointed a president from outside. In one case a former member of staff returned and proved a fine president. In an era of growing internationalisation, where there are many talented Irish people abroad who might wish to return home, it is essential that the recruitment procedure be carefully considered.

I am trying to ensure as far as possible that the legislation assists the governing authority in thinking along those lines. For instance, the governing authority shall develop such interview and other procedures as in its opinion will best ensure participation. The phrase “in its opinion” is loose. There should be a minimum requirement which the governing authority can then elaborate on and develop. That is why I include search techniques, advertising and consultative procedures — for example, when to set the process the motion and how much should be allocated in advertisements. There have been cases where potentially talented candidates abroad did not apply in time because the length of time for application in the advertisement was extremely short. That may change in the world of the Internet and so on, but I am trying to ensure the Bill gives as much guidance as possible while leaving details to local circumstances. The intention behind this subsection is admirable, but it does not go far enough. The public has a legitimate interest in [203] ensuring the mechanisms are as developed as possible. I have no doubt the amendment can be improved, but this is its purpose.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  I understand Senator Lee's point. There is no doubt that the spirit of what Professor Lee wants and the objective he seeks should be supported but this is too prescriptive and intrusive. The experience of University College, Dublin, over the last number of presidencies is that there has been an evolution from when it was regarded as a closed competition for which only insiders needed to apply. The NUI process was such that an outsider would not have been made feel very welcome, if not made to feel they were not entitled to apply.

That has evolved considerably. In the last presidential election in UCD, as I am sure is the case elsewhere, candidates addressed all sections of the university population and were invited to address the governing body before the position was taken; it was also very widely advertised. This issue should be addressed by each university in light of the philosophy which now prevails on such matters. That philosophy holds it axiomatic that every academic and senior administrative position is widely advertised and all procedures are open, structured and accountable. Professor Lee would agree that this was not the case when he and I began our academic careers in what were rather closed and insulated institutions. We are better off leaving this to the universities and their governing bodies. They would now be sure that the proper procedures are adhered to in order that the best candidates are attracted. It is a matter of judgment. I do not disagree with what Professor Lee is trying to do, but this may be too prescriptive.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Senator Manning must have stolen my speaking notes. Flexible arrangements are provided in sections 24(4) and (5), which will allow universities and the Higher Education Authority to develop a framework. We should not be too prescriptive as we will have governing bodies that will be different in composition and more outward looking than previously. Given those circumstances, it is impossible for me to recommend acceptance of amendment Nos. 109 and 110, which relate to amendment No. 74. The application is too wide and the matters the Senator wishes to raise are well provided for.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  We are dealing with amendment No. 73.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I am anticipating.

The effect of amendments No. 73 and 76 would be to affect the process of appointment of any member of staff from a gardener to a senior professor. That the whole employment spectrum would be affected was not grasped by the Senator and the proposal might be seen as an attack on institutional autonomy. The procedures referred [204] to in subsection (2) could include advertising, search and consultative processes if the governing authorities so desired. It was not suitable to put this in as a requirement. If I had included this in the original Bill in the level of detail the Senator wanted, I would have been accused of being prescriptive.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  That accusation would have been made but I would have been on the Minister's side. I thank the Minister for answering on amendments Nos. 74, 109 and 110 and now I know what is ahead.

There is agreement on the direction one wants to go, although I would not be quite as optimistic as Senator Manning. It will probably work itself out, as the impulse is as widely and firmly based as one would want it to be. Some of the responses I have had to this general principle suggest that there is still some resistance, which made me feel that there was more necessity for this than I had thought.

When the Minister spoke of framework, that was a legitimate dimension to consider. Remuneration is one of the key factors in attracting high quality outside candidates. I have no more idea how one determines what a first class university president is worth than how one determines how much a first class Secretary of a Government Department is worth. If they do their jobs well, they will be worth more than we are likely to pay them, but what we offer must be given a lot of thought. The development of that framework should not be left to the last minute. I cannot stress enough that the quality of people in that position is perhaps the single most significant variable in determining the overall performance of the university sector. I may return on Report Stage with a refined version of these amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 74 not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 75:

In page 17, subsection (2), line 44, to delete “employees” and substitute “members”.

This may seem a pedantic change but there is a subtle distinction between “employee” and “member”. The outside members of a governing authority are deemed to be members of the university but not employees. Therefore, when one wants those in a university to think of outsiders as possible candidates, they should not be confined to those they happen to know, even if they are very good candidates. I am prepared to withdraw this amendment, but it was an amendment to provoke people to look outwards rather than to settle for candidates they knew.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The aim here is to encourage the right recruitment of university staff. We need not pursue this.

[205] Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No.76 not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 77:

In page 18, subsection (4), line 4, after “fit”. to add “A committee may consist either wholly of members of the governing authority or such combination of members and non-members as the governing authority thinks fit.”.

Later in the Bill there is a clause on academic councils to the effect that they can consist of the same membership as in this amendment. That does not apply to governing authorities. Is that deliberate or is it intended that governing authorities be confined to members of the governing authority when there is explicit permission for academic council committees to consist of members of that council and non-members? Is the difference intended?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Senator Lee's proposal is already the case. The governing authority can decide as it sees fit. Although I think it unnecessary, I support what it is attempting and will consider it further if the House is not confident that it is clear this is already the case. If my offer on clarity is accepted, we can return to this.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I move amendment No. 77a:

In page 18, subsection (6), lines 11 and 12, to delete paragraph (a) and substitute the following:

“(a) ensure the promotion and use of Irish as a language of general communication, facilitate the use of Irish as a medium of instruction, and provide for the cultivation of the Irish language and its associated literary and cultural traditions as subjects of teaching and research,”.

Section 17(6) states:

In performing its functions a governing authority, or a committee where appropriate, shall—

(a) have regard to the promotion and use of the Irish language and the promotion of Irish cultures,

I do not have any objection to that but my amendment seeks to move beyond “have regard to” to try to provide for a greater imperative by using the words “ensure the promotion and use of Irish as a language of general communication, facilitate the use of Irish as a medium of instruction, and provide for the cultivation of the Irish language and its associated literary and cultural traditions as subjects of teaching and research”. The amendments are similar.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  It is almost a copy.

[206]Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  While the second part of my amendment seeks to extend the use of Irish to the “literary and cultural traditions”, which is important the main reason I tabled it is to see whether the Minister would accept placing a greater imperative on the governing body to promote the Irish language so that, rather than “have regard to”, they would take this on board and ensure it would happen.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I support what Senator O'Toole said. Neither of us is in the forcing mould but it is fair to say that “have regard to” could be a dead letter. If the balance can be achieved, it is desirable to have something a little more indicative of the direction in which one wishes it to go. That is why I support the Senator in this matter.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Section 16(6) addresses the responsibility of the governing authority as regards the Irish language. This matter also arose in Dáil Éireann and, given the widespread recommendation to include a provision along these lines, I will consider the matter further, address elements in the amendments and return to the matter on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment 78 not moved.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Sherlock): Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Amendment No. 79. Amendment No. 80 is related. Therefore, amendments Nos. 79 and 80 may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 79:

In page 18, subsection (6)(b), line 17, after “socially” to insert “or generationally”.

A section such as this is an invitation to insert almost anything which one happens to find desirable of insertion. I asked myself what are the two areas in my experience of university life at present which need to be integrated as a matter of course. While there are general inputs from outside, they may not be represented as effectively as some others.

Physical disadvantage is one of the areas and I do not think it is mentioned anywhere else in the Bill. If it is, I am open to correction. One ought to include a specific recognition of the responsibility of universities to try to do whatever they can in that direction. In fact, a number are doing good work and I am happy to say that my university, University College Cork, is doing very good work. Where the Bill refers in section 17(6) to “economically or socially disadvantaged people and ... people from sections of society significantly under-represented”, we should make provision for the physically disadvantaged specifically and the generationally disadvantaged — I am not sure if I coined that phrase. I am thinking of adult education and of those who did not have a chance to attend university who might be in a position to benefit from it. It is desirable that the [207] Bill acknowledges specifically the desirability of moving further in the direction towards which the universities are already moving.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I agree with the sentiments expressed in this section. I would like Senator Lee to be a little more explicit in his explanation of “generationally”. I am having difficulty relating to it.

Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  I support the insertion of “physically disadvantaged people” and I signalled that on Second Stage. It is desirable and I hope the Minister will agree with it.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Subsection (6)(b) refers to “people from sections of society significantly under-represented”. It is a general statement and it is better to be left in that form rather than attempting to list various elements. However, I would refer Senator Lee and Senator Kelly to section 34, which deals with equality policy. Section 34(1)(a) refers to “access to the university and to university education by economically or socially disadvantaged people, by people who have a disability and by people from sections of society significantly under-represented in the student body”. Therefore, I recommend that we leave out the general statement in amendments Nos. 79 and 80 because the concerns expressed on both sides of the House are dealt with in section 34.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  There is a reference to disability in section 34 but there is no harm in including it again. Having said that, a person could complain that somebody was left out and it was meant to be totally inclusive.

There is reference to lifelong learning. We still do not take on board sufficiently the sheer bad luck of when a person was born in terms of access to higher education for different age cohorts. Despite provisions for mature students and adult education, we are writing off those who happen to have been born a little too early. Whether that justifies the coinage of such an awful word as “generationally”, I am not sure but it is desirable to indicate to universities that this ought to be one of the directions which society would wish them to develop further.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Vocational training opportunity schemes have been introduced and these give access to third level, but I agree with the sentiments of Senator Lee in so far as we must stress the provisions which universities could make to break that cycle and help those who never made the break through.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I can only refer back to the objects of the university. Section 12(i) states: “to facilitate lifelong learning through the provision of adult and continuing education”. That was a theme which I pursued during the Irish Presidency of the EU in the past six months and that [208] is why it is provided for among the objects of a university. Senator Lee explained the word “generationally”. I am satisfied we would all agree that section 12(i) is seen as a basic objective of a university, and it is provided in statute.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I hope the universities take as much notice of it as the Minister would wish.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 80 not moved.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I move amendment No. 80a:

In page 18, subsection (6), between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following new paragraph:

“(d) to promote good relations between people of all religions on the island of Ireland.”.

I am puzzled by subsection (6) and I do not know from where these three aspirations came. While I have no rooted objection to the principles involved in them, I can think of other ones which are equally worthy. The Minister obviously has a great attachment to the use of the Irish language, the attainment of gender balance and the promotion of the economic, cultural and social development of the State, whatever that means. While I think it is possible to support the insertion of these type of aspirations in a Bill of this sort, I do not see why it has been so selective. This addition would be a very important one. If we accept the aspirational nature of this Bill concerning the performance and functions of a university, it would be appropriate if we accepted that one of the most important objectives of all institutions — but especially educational ones — on this island is to tackle a problem which is far greater than those identified by subsections (a), (b) and (c). That is the sectarianism in the people of this island and the promotion of non-sectarianism, pluralism and means whereby different denominations can live together.

One of the great attractions some years ago of Trinity College — I do not say this in an exclusive way, but because it is something I experienced myself — was the absolutely free exchange of ideas between Nationalists and Unionists. I regret that has died to a large extent. About 25 to 30 years ago a large number of Unionists and Nationalists was represented in Dublin University — probably more Protestants than Catholics, but I do not know. There were healthy debates at the time in which a fair balance of Nationalist and Unionist opinion was exchanged. That was very healthy and it was one of the few places in Ireland where that happened. There was a great deal of banter and fierce debate, but it was an exchange of views in a friendly non-combative and non-hostile atmosphere.

Because the university gave places to people from all over Ireland it provided at the time an almost unique forum for the promotion of good relations between people of all religions. That is [209] now lost — the Unionists no longer come down here, although some Nationalists do — for reasons which I will not go into because they are complicated and there are several of them. It is not the fault of any particular section of the community or of any Government or party.

If we put in these type of functions — and the Minister will be aware of my reservations about putting anything like this in the legislation, but I accept the inevitability of them being there now — they are more important than the promotion of the Irish language, gender balance or the third one, which is fairly meaningless. In the very difficult situation of the last 25 years, universities have been among the few institutions that could provide a forum for good relations between people of different religions.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  This is an interesting amendment. It is a sentiment which neither I nor anyone in the House can oppose. I ask to be allowed to come back on Report Stage in proposing an amendment along the lines that Senator Ross has proposed.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Thank you.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 17 agreed to.

Acting Chairman:  Amendment No. 81 has already been discussed with amendment No. 7. Acceptance of this amendment involves the deletion of section 18. Is the amendment being pressed?

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  No, I am not pressing the amendment but I have reservations about it.

Amendment No. 81 not moved.

Acting Chairman:  Amendment No. 82 has already been discussed with amendment No. 7. Is the amendment being pressed?

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  My understanding was that the Minister said she will look further at it. In the light of that I will not proceed further with it.

Amendment not moved.

Acting Chairman:  Amendment No. 83 has already been discussed with amendment No. 7. Senator Dardis is not here.

Amendment No. 83 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 18 stand part of the Bill”.

[210]Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I am slightly concerned by the appointment of a judge as a visitor and I would not like this to go by without comment. We tend to assume that judges are people who, for some reason, are a cut above the rest of us and that automatically, therefore, they should be accepted as visitors to universities “after consultation with the President of the High Court”. I do not necessarily believe judges are the most suitable people to be visitors to universities. Judges are no better, worse or any different from anyone else.

Judges of the High Court are political appointees. They have been appointed by Governments or by Ministers and many of them have declared political allegiances. We tend to accept that judges are people of some sort of impeccable integrity, which may be true, but they all have opinions, including political opinions, and many have been appointed by Ministers in the past. I have never understood why judges are not subject to the disclosure of interests. I would have thought that they, before politicians, should be subject to the Declaration of Interests Bill because they are making judgments on things which affect people's lives. They have far more power than politicians but they have never been subject to that Bill. There is an absolute assumption that a judge of the High Court will be appointed and will automatically be the right type of person. I am not so sure about that. I remain to be convinced that it is better for a judge of the High Court to be appointed by the Government than it is for the university to appoint someone themselves. I do not see anything wrong with the university making the appointment of a High Court judge as a visitor rather than the Government, which may have appointed the High Court judge to the Bench as well.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The experience in the University of Dublin, which has the power to appoint its own visitors, is that on a number of occasions judges have been used and they have been found to be very good. There is an argument that there should be a degree of prejudice in the direction of the Judiciary in relation to the number of points they must preside over or the examination of issues with a strong legal flavour and context. I would not rule out judges in the same way that I did not seek to rule out mayors of Cork or Limerick or members of county councils, but they should not be appointed automatically.

I do not have as much difficulty as my colleague, Senator Ross, with the appointment of judges because a certain degree of judgment and legal knowledge can help. However, I am not sure it should automatically be a judge, which is certainly not the case in Trinity College. On the other hand, this Bill deals with the other universities. It is not my patch to direct other universities on how to manage their affairs. If they are happy with this arrangement, I do not have any committed objection to it.

I accept what Senator Ross said, that judges are sometimes political appointments and that [211] judgments are made in a political context. Although it is unlikely to have a drastic effect on the situation, I am glad the situation in Trinity College has been left intact. It has been seen to work well and it is interesting to note that the university appointed judges. I cite Mr. Justice Kingsmill Moore, who is a most distinguished and learned judge and who operated so efficiently there was never a scandal. He was brought in on a number of occasions and he adjudicated and resolved problems. That is the type of function one wants a visitor to carry out. A former Member of the other House, Mr. Justice Henry Barron, is one of the present visitors, while the other is the Chancellor, Mr. Frank O'Reilly. He has no judicial training, as far as I know, but he is also equally valuable.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The role of visitor is one with a long tradition in our university institutions. The status of the visitor was considered in detail by the select committee and I consulted with the President of the High Court. The NUI colleges want the visitor to be a judge of the High Court or a retired judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court. They probably decided on this as a result of the experience of Trinity College and the nature of the appointments made by the Government. One visitor is the Chancellor and the other is appointed by the Government from senate nominees. Having consulted widely and agreed that the status of the visitor is important, I did not have any difficulty acceding to the request from the other universities that the visitor should be a judge of the High Court or a retired judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court.

Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman:  Amendment No. 84 has already been discussed with amendment No. 7.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I do not remember discussing it with amendment No. 7.

Acting Chairman:  There were many amendments grouped together, but I will allow the Senator to make a brief comment.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment NO. 84:

In page 18, lines 32 to 40, to delete subsection (1) and substitute the following:

“(1) Where the Board of Visitors is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for contending that the functions of a university are being performed in a manner which prima facie constitute a breach of the laws, statutes or ordinances applicable to the university, it shall so advise the Minister, and the Minister may, after first advising the governing [212] authority of his/her opinion and considering any explanation given in response, and with the concurrence of the Government, request the Board of Visitors to the university to enquire into the matter giving rise to its opinion.”.

This section is one of the most contentious in the Bill. I want to make the visitor the buffer between the Minister and the various powers the Minister could activate by a complex process of activation. Instead of stating that “the Minister is of the opinion”, the subsection should state that “the Board of Visitors is of the opinion”. It was intended to buffer the Minister against the university, to buffer the university against the Minister and to ensure there was a degree of acceptance in the institution of an unprecedented power and what was seen as an intrusion by the Minister.

I am not one of those who oppose the section, because the Minister must have certain rights, but the mechanism by which they are controlled is important. A worst case scenario under section 19 would be a mutiny in a university against the appointment of an outside governing authority for one year. If such a situation arose it would be important that the basic opinion in the university would appreciate the reasons for what had happened, however much it might dislike what had happened, and would continue to give good and loyal service and to carry on the work of the university. Otherwise, the work of a university could ground to a halt if someone was sent in, which would be the direct opposite of what was intended. I am not sure we have taken on board the reaction of the teaching body and the university community in general to such decisions. We seem to have assumed they will be mutely accepted. A potentially dangerous situation could arise if the full thrust of section 19 is implemented.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman:  Amendments Nos. 85 to 89, inclusive, not moved.

Section 19 agreed to.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  I propose that we take a sos for 15 minutes because we probably have three or four more hours of work left.

Acting Chairman:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Sitting suspended at 12 midnight and resumed at 12.15 a.m.

Acting Chairman:  Amendments Nos. 90, 91 and 93 to 96, inclusive, form a composite proposal, [213] No. 92 is related and all may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 90:

In page 19, lines 6 to 12, to delete subsection (1) and substitute the following:

“(1) Where the Board of Visitors reports that the functions of a university or its governing authority are being performed in a manner which constitutes a breach of the laws, statutes or ordinances of or applicable to the university, the Minister shall so inform the chief officer and ensure that the chief officer receives in person a copy of the report of the Board of Visitors.”.

I believe I anticipated myself before the sos when referring to this section. The Minister will be more than familiar with its intricacies.

The impetus behind amendment No. 90 is based on the existence of the standing buffer — be it a board of visitors or some other body — which would perform the functions required to implement a decision, if one were taken, to suspend a governing authority. The Minister will be aware of a view abroad, with which I concur, that the eventuality of something of this nature happening appears so remote that the inclusion of one and a half pages of text in the Bill to deal with it seems unnecessary. If anything of this type occurs it should be dealt with by means of extraordinary parliamentary response. By virtue of the section's inclusion in the Bill there are those who believe a certain type of Minister might be tempted to consider the potential of implementing it or tightening its provisions to conduct inquiries of various sorts. I accept it is tightly drafted in terms of obliging a Minister to follow closely a particular procedure.

That said, under section 20, as matters stand a governing authority may be suspended and the members may have their membership terminated. While I do not share Senator Ross's full suspicion of the likely behaviour patterns of judges or visitors, I find it difficult if we project forward and consider the situation envisaged in the Bill whereby the Minister would take the initiative, call in a visitor to see if his or her suspicions are justified and, if they are, a procedure would follow. It is difficult to envisage in terms of political realities that a Minister is likely to appoint a visitor who will come up with the wrong answer. It would be extraordinary if a visitor reported back to a Minister, in the public arena, that he or she was wrong, that is to say, that the problems which the Minister thought existed did not exist.

While the fact that a visitor is appointed — on an ad hoc basis as I understand it — appears to provide safeguards, it can leave the anxieties of those who are fearful of an extreme use of ministerial power unassuaged. It is undesirable for unnecessary tensions to arise if they are avoidable. An initiative which comes from a standing body, which I call a board of visitors in my [214] amendment, would make the process more acceptable to the public and to the institution.

If the visitor found that a governing authority was in dereliction of its duty yet a group on the governing body strongly opposed the behaviour that was found to be unacceptable, it would also be suspended. As it stands, the whole governing body would be suspended and the membership of its members terminated. The governing body may be suspended for up to a year and the visitor can, after consulting the Minister, appoint such a person or body of persons to perform its functions. This process is to take place apparently while the remainder of the university continues its usual activities as if in a vacuum or as if nothing had changed. Events such as these would throw an institution into turmoil. Even if the Minister's suspicions were justified, the operational efficiency of an exercise of this sort seems difficult to assume.

My amendments propose that the nominees of the board of visitors shall try to reinstitute the governing authority as rapidly as possible, certainly not taking longer than a year to do so, and that whatever measures it takes in the meantime shall be taken in consultation with the academic council. Thus, the people who are active in the university will feel they have a stake in the process and that events are not taking place over their heads, which is how I understand the mechanism as it is outlined in the section.

I also propose that instead of a new commission being established at the end of the year to appoint a new governing authority, on a different composition perhaps, the board of visitors should perform the function of getting the governing authority re-elected, rather than assuming that one had to compose it differently as if it was the composition of the governing body which was responsible for the dereliction of responsibilities. As the commission stands it would include the president and the registrar who may well be discredited by the suspension of the governing body. I find it difficult to see how that could happen, but as I understand the section that could arise.

The assumptions about what would happen if one got to the stage of having to appoint somebody in these circumstances are a dog's dinner, so to speak. One could end up in a worse situation. I do not think the process in the section would proceed along the smooth administrative lines envisaged. As the events are unlikely to happen, why do sections 19 and 20 go into such elaborate detail on the steps to be taken? However improbable we think it might be, we would be remiss in our responsibility if we did not try to discuss what might happen.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  I understand Senator Lee's arguments but I am happy with the checks and balances in the section. For example, the Minister would not act on his or her own but with the concurrence of and through the Government. If a Minister attempted to act in a manner which was considered suspicious the Government would [215] have to examine the situation and make a decision. That decision would be governmental, not ministerial. Given the provisions of sections 19 and 20, a Minister would not be able to act without good reason. The circumstances which the Senator imagines might arise cannot arise given the terms of the sections.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I agree with some of the points raised by Senator Lee. I am concerned that the dismissal would be dealt with in depth. The chief officer should deal with it in such as way that everyone would be aware of the reasons for the suspension of the governing body. It would be a very serious step to take and perhaps the Minister would explain exactly what would be involved.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  Subsection (2)(b) of Senator Lee's amendment No. 91 states that “... the governing authority as a whole, or certain members, should be dismissed”. Last year the House dealt with legislation concerning a fisheries board which made similar provisions. A manager was appointed in that case but it only involved the dismissal of a member rather than the whole board. I support Senator Lee's amendment that perhaps a provision should be included for certain members. The whole board would not always be involved.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Section 20 provides for the suspension of the governing authority in an extraordinary situation. It is necessary that the Government and the Oireachtas have the power to ensure in cases of serious breakdown in the operation of a university that direct action can be taken in the interests of the students, staff and wider community. The safeguards in the legislation as regards the Minister, Government and the Houses of the Oireachtas are significant. The Minister must be of the view, after receiving the report of the visitor, that the functions of the university are performed in a manner which constitute a breach of the laws, statutes or ordinance applicable to the university and must consider any views of the governing authority and the chief officer on this opinion.

We have already had a robust discussion about the need to have someone from the Judiciary represented and Senator Lee drifted into section 20 on this. The visitor would come to the Minister with a certain status. The visitor must agree with the Minister that the governing authority should be suspended. The Minister would then make a recommendation to the Government. If the Government agrees, it may, by order and with the consent of both Houses, suspend the membership. There is great protection here. Following consultation with the Minister, the visitor will appoint a person or body of persons to perform the functions of a governing authority in the period before a new authority is appointed.

These are safeguards which address reasonable concerns and provide a balanced set of provisions [216] which will enable a Government to take a step it may have to. Given the three stages I outlined, I cannot support the deletion of the provision as proposed by Senators Ormonde, Norris and Ross. However, I believe their concerns are met in the buffers which exist.

I have examined the set of amendments proposed by Senator Lee. The revised subsections (1) and (2) which the Senator drafted do not differ from the subsection in the Bill. We are meeting the concerns his amendments set out to address in the Bill. Senator Dardis's amendment No. 92 which specifies that suspensions should only apply to individual members is related to Senator Lee's amendment No. 93. I do not support this proposal. That function should be exercised by the governing authority, which returns to a question raised by Senator Fitzgerald. This is provided for and I refer the Senator to section 3(1) of the Third Schedule which allows the governing authority to suspend a member.

Amendments Nos. 94, 95 and 96, proposed by Senator Lee would result in a number of changes to the Bill. He proposes that the visitor must consult the academic council. This is worthwhile but I also favour the provision that the visitor would consult the Minister. I agree that a new governing authority should be put in place as soon as practicable. A cooling off period would be required so it is important to include a time limit. Otherwise a Minister could suspend ad infinitum for their own reasons. Senator Lee proposes that the visitor will have the functions of the commission in arranging for setting up the next governing authority. I do not think this is a sufficient buffer. The visitor will have a major role in the initial visitation and in supporting the suspension of the governing authority.

I would prefer the commission mechanism to be used in setting up a new governing authority in the same manner as the first one appointed under the Bill. I will put down some amendments on Report Stage for the reconstitution of the governing authority as soon as practicable and for consultation with the academic council. I accept there is a need to consult it on the composition of the interim authority. There will be a limit of a year but there is no reason it could not happen before that is reached. I am satisfied that in an extraordinary situation, which is difficult to envisage, the Government or the Minister would not be heavy-handed. We have respect for the experience of the Judiciary and the visitor must concur with the Minister. There are three stages before anything happens. I will return to certain matters on Report Stage.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I will be reasonably brief and I hope not tedious. It is ludicrous to envisage this situation occuring. It has never arisen in the past. If we are discussing hypothetical situations we should also consider reconstituting a university after it is hit by an asteroid, which is on the same level of probability. With the improvements which will possibly result from this Bill — the [217] democratisation of the university structures, the degree of additional accountability and monitoring, it is absurd to contemplate a situation where the board will act so far outside their own statutes and in defiance of the law that the Minister will have the power to abolish it.

I oppose this section but recognise that at this stage of the night and the number of amendments involved I will got get anywhere. I will not waste the time of the House. I would like to get Committee Stage finished. I am prepared to stay here until four, five, six or seven o'clock in the morning. I do not care because it is important we live up to our responsibilities. It would be an awful pity if this Bill lapsed because we were not prepared to stick it out. There is a particular responsibility on people like myself who have spoken at length to stay here until the job is completed. I am prepared to do that.

However, I would like to ask the Minister about the question of visitors in Trinity. I asked whether it was “visitor” or “visitors” and the Minister said the existing situation remained intact. Should I assume that the method of appointment of the visitors by Trinity remains as it was previously?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Yes.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  That is a considerable reassurance. It would be idiotic to put it to a vote at this time of night. Perhaps someone else will. I am opposed to the section in principle. I will leave it at that because on this and the previous Stage of the Bill I have placed my difficulties with it on the record.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  I remind you we are discussing Senator Lee's amendments, not the section.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I beg your pardon. I stand reproved. I undertake not to speak on the section.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I share the view that the contingency is remote. I do not know whether the Minister thinks the hassle involved in including this provision was worth it. It created enormous ill will in universities — more than any other provision in the Bill. It was perceived as an assumption of “guilty until proven innocent”. This may not have been intended, but it is crucial in terms of perception. It gave rise to a degree of froth in responses which makes one wonder whether it was worth it.

I will not press these amendments and I appreciate what the Minister said about consulting the academic council. She went a little fast through her reply for my level of comprehension. It may be possible to obtain a copy of her reply between now and Report Stage to see exactly what she has in mind. She replied in a detailed manner, section by section and line by line. I did not quite follow all of it. I will not press my amendments. I want to express my continuing [218] concern about getting it right, however remote the contingency.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 91 to 96, inclusive, not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 20 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I record my opposition to this section.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Having already spoken illegally on the section, I will not do so again.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I will wait to hear the Minister's comments on Report Stage.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I support this section. Nobody should be above being accountable and answerable to the taxpayer. I cannot envisage an objection coming from any member of the public to these arrangements. These provisions should apply to every educational institution from the most humble primary school to the most senior third level institution. It is crucial that there are constraints on the Minister's power although she does retain power.

I agree with many of the issues raised by Senator Lee and I draw particular attention to one of his amendments where he spoke about being able to remove part of the authority. Section 3(1) of the Third Schedule gives the authority the right to dismiss or remove some of its members. The Bill does not allow the Minister to remove certain members of the authority, as opposed to the removal of the entire authority.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 21 agreed to.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I am not moving amendment No. 97 as I get confused at times as to whether “constituent university” refers to the National University of Ireland or other universities. I do not think this amendment is necessary.

Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 not moved.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I move amendment No. 99:

In page 21, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following new subparagraph:

“(iv) the Chancellor of the University of Dublin or a person nominated by the Chancellor,”.

This is a function which the Chancellor would normally perform in the tradition of the university and I think he would like to retain it. I hope the Minister will look favourably on the inclusion [219] of the Chancellor as an officer who can act in this manner on behalf of the university. It would just involve adding a couple of lines at subparagraph 4. This would be in line with the history of the university and I think it would appreciate this.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I do not expect that there will be a commission for Trinity College. I am aware it is the intention of the college to draw up a private act which would deal directly with the issue of the composition of its governing board. This section would not apply to Trinity College but, given the concerns expressed by the Senators, I have no objection to the Chancellor of Trinity College being included in section 22 as a member of the commission for Trinity College. I intend to revisit the issue on Report Stage.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I thank the Minister. If there is no intention to have a commission for Trinity College, can the Minister tell me why provision is made for this in the section? Is it to cover any eventuality that may arise? I welcome the fact that, even if his presence were only a titular and speculative one, the Chancellor would not be deprived of his brief moment of glory.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 100 and 101 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 100:

In page 21, subsection 2 (d) (i), line 14, to delete “such officers, and” and substitute “the chief officer and senior reporting academic officer, and such”.

These amendments sharpen what is already contained in the subsection. The term “such officers” seems to me to be very loose and I would like to hear the Minister's opinion.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The effect of the first amendment would be that the chief officer would have to be a member of the commission and I have no difficulty accepting that. The second amendment stipulates that the Minister would have to discuss with the governing body which members would be on the commission and that is useful. I want to come back with some precise wording and I envisage that we will tighten this up, as the Senator suggested.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 101 not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 102:

In page 21, subsection (5), line 30, after “determine” to insert “preferably by consensus, but if necessary by majority vote, the chairman to have a casting vote,”.

[220] I do not want to go into unnecessary detail here. Does the Minister feel that the amendment is undesirable or unnecessary? I will leave the matter to her judgment.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I do not think the amendment is necessary. I do not disagree with the intent of the amendment which seeks to ensure smooth decision making processes. However, each commission will be in a position to devise its own decision making processes and I do not think it is necessary to set them out in the Bill. We do not want prescriptive statute; I have not, for instance, specified who will chair the meetings. I think we agree on the spirit of this and I assure the Senator that this level of detail is not necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 103 and 104 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 22 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I thought the Minister would reply to my earlier query but perhaps she wants to leave that until Report Stage. If there is not a commission envisaged for Trinity College, why is this provided for in the Bill? I would be happy to wait for a reply until Report Stage.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I do not expect this to happen as I expect that Trinity College will introduce a private Bill. There is a time limit of three years within which Trinity can come forward with such a Bill but, in the event of that not happening, the Chancellor may have his hour of glory.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I appreciate that but I think the Minister may take it that Trinity College is grateful that this possibility is being permitted. They would be extremely foolish not to come forward with a Bill within three years. I fully accept that there may be some pig ignorant, perverse and prejudiced people on the board but I do not think they are in the majority.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 23 agreed to.

Amendment No. 105 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 106, 156 and 158 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 106:

In page 22, subsection (1), line 21 to delete paragraph (c).

I wondered about the point of putting guidelines in this section if they do not have to be observed.

[221] What is the purpose of retaining this paragraph? In relation to amendment No. 156. I do not clearly understand the phrase “An tÚaras may, following consultation with all or any of the chief officers” as used in section 48(1). Does this refer to examining a particular institution with other chief officers being asked for their opinions? I presume this is not the case. However, the construction makes it unclear.

I tabled amendment No. 158 because it would be a useful pedagogic exercise for An tÚdaras to publicly explain why it reaches a particular decision and the response of the university. There is too little open and frank debate between institutions with different ideas on how universities ought to be run. My amendment urges the desirability of open debate on principles of university management and perceptions of their role in society. This type of debate is infrequent.

The formulation used in the Minister's introductory speech on Second Stage was that An tÚdaras would be an omniscient umbrella over the universities which would alert them to best practice at home and abroad. This role seems unlikely to coincide with reality. I expect universities will undertake much of this work themselves to stand their ground and debate their position not simply on the basis of provincialism but participate in an enlightening debate on wider issues. This is the principle behind the amendment.

Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  Will Senator Lee explain what he means by “peccant” as used in amendment No. 158?

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  Section 48(1) speaks of universities departing from guidelines. This is deviant but it is not in contravention of any regulation — it is merely a deviation. Therefore, it is deviant behaviour but not sinful. Maybe this is an old fashioned formulation. I do not know if sin exists today.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I approve of amendment No. 158 because of the elegance of its phrasing. The nice distinction, in the 18th century sense, observed by the learned profesor between deviant and peccant is one that recommends itself to me as somebody who is deviant but rejects the notion of being peccant. This amendment must be accepted for the sake of the Bill's eloquence and style. I have no doubt that the attractive language will overwhelm the Minister.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  As a further example, it may be said that Senator Kelly deviates from the norm and is therefore deviant by not standing when speaking in the House. However, while deviant, she is not peccant.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Section 48 covers guidelines which may be issued in relation to the numbers or grades of employees of a university or the proportion of a universities budget to be applied to [222] different activities. The guidelines come within the support and developmental role of the Higher Education Authority which is also provided for in section 47 and outlined in more detail in the White Paper.

While the guidelines are non-binding, they will provide the Higher Education Authority and the universities with a formal opportunity for dialogue on important issues relating to management. They will also allow, in a formal and statutory manner, the dissemination of best practice nationally and internationally. While they are not mandatory, universities will have to have regard to such guidelines when deciding appointments by statute and may be challenged if it is felt they did not pay regard to them. The dissemination of good practice should not be limited and guidelines should be universal.

Amendment No. 158 was seen as intriguing. The Bill as published contained a number of provisions regarding the publication of views should a dispute arise. I agree that the provisions were not drafted with the eloquence of Senator Lee's amendment, but the Dáil considered it inappropriate to set out such a process and I consider the decision of that House most appropriate. I do not recommend acceptance of this amendment.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I am sceptical at the ability of any institution to determine with certainty what constitutes best practice nationally and internationally. There is great diversity among universities and it is extremely difficult to point to one institution of comparable type and prescribe that model for another institution. Acquiring the necessary degree of knowledge regarding the functioning of potentially model institutions and understanding their use of resources is challenging. It would require a detailed study of best practice, not simply anecdotal evidence. I do not know if we have the necessary research expertise. The model used by the Minister is one which might give a spurious impression of providing a marker against which the performance of Trinity College, UCD or DCU — very different institutions — can be measured. I hope there is no self-delusion about the possibility of conducting this type of exercise in an infallible manner. If we are to do this properly we need to invest significantly more resources. Identifying the best model for a particular institution, if not done properly, could be a dangerous exercise.

There is need for an informed debate to which AntÚdaras and individual institutions could contribute. We would all gain from this. Leaving aside the gracious tributes to the language of the amendments, they raise serious, substantive points regarding the manner in which the performance of individual universities and the university system can be improved, namely, how and what we can learn and how we can most effectively apply what is learned.

[223] Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I move amendment No. 106a:

In page 22, subsection (1), between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following new paragraph:

“(d) the necessity to ensure that it has in its employment an adequate number of staff to enable the university to provide its services through Irish and English.”.

This amendment does not achieve what I intended and it has huge cost implications. Because it is incorrectly drafted I wish to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  I move amendment No. 107:

In page 22, subsection (2), lines 22 and 23, to delete “such conditions as it thinks fit” and substitute “the statutes of the university”.

This amendment would tighten and strengthen the legislation.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  This would not necessarily be the case. Universities will not be able to act in any way which would not be in accordance with their statutes. The amendment is, therefore, unnecessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 108 to 110, inclusive, not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos 111, 111a, 114 and 116 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 111:

In page 22, subsection (6), line 50, after “officer” to insert:

“,and which statute should provide for tenure of officers”.

I move the amendment on behalf of Senator Norris, but I hope he does not return in fury.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendment No. 116 is in the Senator's name.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  It has been explained to me that the implications of amendment No. 116 go far beyond what I had in mind.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Is the Senator pressing amendment No. 111?

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  If Senator Norris does not appear in a second, I will withdraw that amendment. The Senator can re-enter it and amendment No. 114 on Report Stage if necessary. I also intend to withdraw amendment No. 116 on the basis of clarification I received.

[224]Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  The purpose of amendment No. 111a is to establish for employees of the University of Limerick and Dublin City University that the dismissal authority will continue to be the Minister for Education. This matter is of concern to the employees, but I will listen to the Minister's views before I elaborate on it.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The position under the Bill is that the rights and entitlements of current employees are retained. If the governing bodies of Dublin City University or the University of Limerick wish to dismiss a member of staff, they require the consent of the Minister. Employees will continue to have that protection. Following the passage of the Bill, universities, as part of the autonomy conferred on them by the legislation, will have full control over their staff, subject to the position in the University of Limerick and Dublin City University.

A Minister should not have any role in the appointment or dismissal of members of staff of a university. It is important that universities are autonomous. Older universities have enjoyed autonomy since their foundation and the newest university, the NUI in Maynooth, will now also enjoy that position. It would not be in the interest of the universities concerned or their staffs if they were singled out in this manner. Staff, through their unions and associations, will have a central role in the procedures for removal from office, and the fears which may have prompted the amendment will prove to be groundless. The rights and entitlements of current employees of Dublin City University and the University of Limerick are protected.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I accept the Minister's comments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 111a and 112 to 116, inclusive, not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 24 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I understand, while I was momentarily absent, that amendment No. 111 was withdrawn. However, I presume I can re-enter it on Report Stage.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  That is correct.

Question put and agreed to.

Amendment No. 117 not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 118:

In page 23, subsection (2) (d), line 41, to delete “and exclusion”.

The amendment seeks clarification of the term “exclusion” in the subsection. It could be taken [225] to mean the general exclusion of categories but I presume it means expulsion. Does it cover people who are not allowed to return to university after they failed examinations?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Yes. The provision will ensure transparency in university procedures in such matters and that is why it should be retained.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I have no problem with the principle. I just wanted to ensure that I correctly understood the provision.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 119:

In page 24, subsection (2)(f), line 2, after “awards” to insert “to students”.

Scholarships, bursaries, prizes or other awards are usually made to students, but fellowships are a much vaguer category. If the provision applied to the appointment of staff, I assume it would require confirmation by the governing authority. What is the position if a demarcation dispute arose between an academic council and a governing authority?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I do not favour limiting the functions of a governing authority. There may be cases where a university gives fellowships, scholarships, bursaries, prizes or other awards to people other than students. I accept they are usually made to students, but a special award could be made to a member of the academic staff to engage in post doctoral studies abroad. The provision should not be too restrictive. The Senator should not worry.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 120 and 121 not moved.

Section 25 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 122 and 123 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 122:

In page 24, subsection (1), lines 16 and 17, to delete “members from what, in the opinion of the governing authority, is an appropriate range of academic disciplines in the university” and substitute “all professors, associate professors, and heads of all academic departments in the university”.

I indicated on Second Stage that this matter is of concern to me. I will not repeat the arguments I made then but the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became about the importance of trying to ensure that membership of an [226] academic council does not become an occasion for internal conflict or decision making from an academic political perspective. I could go on at length but I will not do so. What way is the Minister's mind moving? I will await her comments because if I started to discuss this matter in detail, I would continue for some time.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I would wait for some time to hear the Senator's views. The amendments relate to members of the academic staff. I will introduce an amendment on Report Stage regarding amendment No. 122. I indicated earlier that I am open to teasing out this matter further. Following discussions with the Senator, it will be possible to meet his concerns.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I appreciate the Minister's comments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 123 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 124 and 125 are related and may be taken together by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 124:

In page 24, subsection (3), line 30, after “officer”, to insert “and the senior officer of the university having responsibility for academic affairs”.

The senior officer having responsibility to the chief officer for academic affairs should be ex officio a member of an acadmic council. Apart from the president, he is the main academic officer in the institution. The academic council is entrusted with basic responsibility for the development of the academic orientation. Both in principle and operationally I find it inconceivable that the officer in question would not be ex officio a member of such a council.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  This amendment would have the effect of giving the registrar automatic membership of the council. I had hoped that each university would decide for itself that the registrar would be a member of the council, but if the House wishes to make this a requirement I will not oppose it. I am trying not to impose regulations.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I wish to press the point. This may appear a minor issue to those not involved in the operation of a university but it is potentially serious.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  As long as I will not be blamed for being too prescriptive and that Senator Lee will accept that accusation, I am prepared to return on Report Stage.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I am willing to face the accusation. I think the minister.

[227] Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 125 not moved.

Section 26 agreed to.

Sections 27 and 28 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 126, 127, 127a and 128 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 129 and 130 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 129:

In page 25, subsection (2), line 32 and 33, to delete “in such manner as it thinks appropriate,”.

Guidance should be given, but the governing authority will know what is the decent thing to do. I am prepared to withdraw these amendments.

Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 130 not moved.

Section 29 agreed to.

Sections 30 and 31 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 131 and 132 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 131:

In page 27, subsection (1), line 4, after “university” to insert “having regard to the resources available to the university,”.

This deals with planning and evaluation. Section 32(1) states: “A governing authority shall, as soon as practicable... require the chief officer to prepare a plan”. I am puzzled that the requirement imposed on the chief officer is to prepare a plan setting out aims, etc., but when the governing authority assesses the plan it must have “regard to the resources available to the university”. This implies that the planning could be done in an abstract way without regard to resources, but the evaluation of the plan will take the resources into account. I may be told that the plan must by definition have regard to resources, but as the provision stands the explicit injunction to have regard to the resources available to the university only applies at the evaluation stage. How does the Minister envisage the planning process if the resources constraint is not incorporated in the plan from the outset?

[228]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  There is an error in line 1 of amendment No. 132. The word “from” should be deleted.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The chief officer must always act subject to the policy of the governing authority and shall be answerable to the authority. When he starts to draw up the plan he is doing so on behalf of the authority — paragraph 2 of the Fourth Schedule provides for this. Section 17(1) provides that the functions of the governing authority shall be within the constraints of the overall budget of the university. I bow to the Senator's experience, because I have not been on a governing authority, but I have been on boards which have drawn up a wish list but found that what was recommended was impossible to do within the constraints of the budget. I do not think we need this amendment. It is clear that a university must act within its budget. Section 32(2) merely requires that a strategic development plan must have regard to the resources available to the university. It is not necessary to repeat that in the provision concerning the chief officer. We must accept and not even question that the chief officer would look at all the potential resources of the university in drawing up a plan and would do so on behalf of the governing authority.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  If the Minister is satisfied that it is implicit without having to be implicitly stated, I am satisfied also.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 132 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 32 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Is it required under this section that a chief officer prepare a three year plan? Is that a practical requirement?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  It has been indicated to me that it would happen. The Minister for Finance is desperately trying to introduce the concept of multi-annual budgeting to all Departments. It has been agreed that, given the span of study requirement, a three year plan rather than a one year plan is acceptable to the universities.

Question put and agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 133 to 137, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

[229]Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 133:

In page 27, subsection (1), line 17, after “procedures” to insert “having regard to the resources available”.

Section 33 (1) provides:

A governing authority ... shall... require the chief officer to establish procedures for quality assurance aimed at improving the quality of education...

The biggest, although not the only constraint, on universities doing these things is resources, as it is with most other institutions. Resources can be misused, but if one does not have them in the first place one cannot misuse them. Particularly where assessment, publication of assessment, etc., are involved, there is potential for misleading impressions to be conveyed to the public if evaluations are carried out without explicit reference to the resources available. If the resources available had been taken into account, one might see that a good job was being done. This is different to my earlier amendments concerning the chief officer.

The Education Bill contains a similar provision. It mentions that inspectors will carry out reviews of schools and individual teachers, and there is a later reference to the resources available. No evaluation ought to take place without explicit reference to the resources available to those being evaluated to discharge their responsibilities. Every evaluation should be made in the context of the available resources. That is why I am puzzled by the disjunction between evaluation on one hand and the later evaluation of the evaluations on the other, taking resources into account only at that stage.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I do not see why the Bill should state that the procedures the chief officer would draw up for quality assurance would have to have regard to resources. The procedures themselves would, inter alia, relate to the manner of evaluations and the assessment by students. I do not think it is necessary to include that here.

Amendment No. 134 would result in the evaluation of faculties only as appropriate, to which I would not object. Therefore, I will look further at that to find the correct language to use. I do not consider amendment No. 135 necessary. Those who would have to evaluate quality would have to be able to evaluate quality having regard to resources.

I do not think amendment No. 136 is necessary as it could not be expected that those availing of the services would be given information in advance of the exact resources. We could put in place here a recipe for extremely useless management of the time of university staff who would then have to provide the information.

Amendment No. 137 is very interesting. However, I remind the Senator that under the Bill universities now have a free hand in the internal allocation of resources. Therefore, in the [230] identification of further resources which might be needed for the implementation of findings it would be appropriate that the governing authority would seek to find the resources, in addition to further resources from the HEA, if appropriate.

There may be cost factors associated with implementing the procedures. I consider the section deals with this. The governing authority is required to implement the findings of the procedures only when they are reasonable and practical, and to have regard to available resources in so doing. I have already signalled that I intend to table an amendment to subsection (2) on Report Stage to replace the plural word “provisions” in line 29 with “provision”.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I am grateful to the Minister. It is now stitched into the record that these amendments are unnecessary because it is assumed they are an integral part of the procedure at the outset. That is useful.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 134 to 137, inclusive, not moved.

Section 33 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 139, 139a and 140 are related to amendment No. 138, although amendment No. 139a has been withdrawn, and all may be taken together by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 138:

In page 28, subsection (1) (a), line 4, after “university” to insert “having regard to the resources available”.

I assume the Minister's reasoning will be the same in reply to this amendment, in which case I will withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 139, 139a and 140 not moved.

Section 34 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendments Nos. 143, 155 and 157 are related to amendment No. 141 and all may be taken together by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 141:

In page 28, subsection (1), line 29, after “university” to insert “with reference to all moneys voted by the Oireachtas”.

[231] I would welcome a brief clarification of this from the Minister. What accounting or reporting procedure is involved with moneys from outside the Oireachtas? How do such moneys relate to State funding in terms of finance, property and reporting?

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I am also concerned that moneys, apart from State funding, will not have to be accounted for in the statements which will have to be submitted to An tÚdarás.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  This section merely gives statutory recognition to existing practices. Private university trusts and funds do not come under public scrutiny in this legislation. Under the Bill the Higher Education Authority will not have access to information on private trusts and funds. It will only have access to information which is at present provided by the universities. Information that is provided on a non-statutory basis for most of the universities includes the accounts of their annual income from all sources, private and public, and their expenditures. Section 37 ensures this is the case. I do not recommend the acceptance of the amendment because I reassure the Senator we are talking only about public funds.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I am grateful for that clarification.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 142:

In page 28, subsection (1), line 29, after “year” to insert “in the context of a three year budgetary framework, or any change in the government budgetary procedures”.

This returns to the question of three years. I will be guided by what the Minister chooses to say in that regard.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 143 not moved.

Section 35 agreed to.

Sections 36 to 38, inclusive, agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Amendment No. 145 is related to amendment No. 144 and both may be discussed together by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 144:

In page 29, subsection (1), lines 48 and 49, to delete “not exceeding three years” and substitute “not being less than three years”.

Under section 32(1) the chief officer shall draw up a plan for a period “not less than three years”. Under this subsection the chief officer shall, having [232] regard to the strategic plan, “as soon as is practicable after the end of each period, not exceeding three years” prepare a report. I presume they have the same meaning, but one is from below and the other is from above. If my understanding of that is correct the amendment would make the drafting more consistent.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Three years is a reasonable amount of time, given the public interest in the universities. Amendment No. 144 would have the effect of enabling the universities to report after four, ten or 100 years, as they decided. That is too open-ended.

It is not necessary to insert the phrase “having regard to the resources available” as proposed in amendment No. 145 because this would necessarily be the case when looking at the operations and performance of the university. Therefore, one amendment is not needed and the other is over prescriptive.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  Am I misreading the disjunction between the phrases “not exceeding three years” and “not being less than three years”?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Yes — it is not less than three years.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 145 not moved.

Section 39 agreed to.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 146:

In page 30, subsection (3), line 19, to delete all words from and including “Oireachtas” in line 19 down to and including “Authority” in line 25, and substitute “the university and the Minister shall consult as to the manner most conductive to the continued achievement of the objects of a university, including the manner in which the university shall compensate the State for the continued use of the land or other assets acquired, developed or refurbished by the university with moneys provided by the Oireachtas.”.

This issue may seem remote but it is in the Bill. What happens if a university goes in a primarily private direction? As the section stands, it seems to suggest a fairly abrupt and not very cordial divorce. I am trying to suggest a mechanism for a more cordial or orderly disengagement or continuing the relationship in a more distant way. I do not know if it is worthwhile pursuing this but the question may arise if a university ceases to be funded substantially — which, I presume, means more than half — from public moneys. That could happen, so I need clarification on it.

[233]Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Where the land and buildings, or their development or refurbishment, have been funded from public moneys it is appropriate that any such moneys would be refunded in the event of a sale or transfer to a private body. The section ensures this will be the case, subject to agreement between the Minister and the governing authority, where the moneys were provided after the date of the passing of the Bill.

There is a provision for arbitration where disengagement may occur too abruptly and where agreement cannot be reached. This will allow time for both sides to be heard. If the university were to decide to seek funds otherwise, there would be a large number of issues involved, not least the protection of the interest of the students and the public interest generally. The section should not attempt to set out how universities should relate to the State if they cease to receive State funding, rather it enshrines the right of the State to have some of its investment returned.

The detailed issues of the protection of the interest of the students and the public interest generally may well be a matter for future legislation, should the need arise. I am inserting a safeguard for the State's protection. The Bill deals with those universities in receipt of State funding through the HEA.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  The tone of the Bill suggests that this is an undesirable development; it requires a somewhat frosty reaction. I am trying to envisage a situation where one may decide to develop in that direction, rather than have it happen against one's will.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 40 agreed to.

Sections 41 to 43, inclusive, agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendment No. 148 is related to amendment No. 147 and both may be discussed together.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I move amendment No. 147:

In page 32, line 38, to delete paragraph (b).

This section amends sections of the Irish Universities Act, 1908, for obvious reasons. However, section 44, paragraph (b) proposes to delete section 3(2) and (3), while paragraph (d) proposes to delete part of section 7(4) of the 1908 Act.

Section 3(1) of the 1908 Act, which is to be retained, states:

No test whatever of religious belief shall be imposed on any person as a condition of his becoming or continuing to be a professor, lecturer, fellow,... in, either of the two universities, or any constituent college;...

[234] Section 3(2), which it is proposed to delete, states:

Every professor upon entering into office shall sign a declaration in a form approved by the Commissioners jointly under this Act, securing the respectful treatment of the religious opinions of any of his class.

I discussed the issue of religious opinion and ethos in this House over the past two to three months. While I do not accord a great value to consistency, in everything I have attempted in this area I have attempted to value and respect the ethos of beliefs. It may be argued that this provision has fallen into misuse; nobody wants to compel people to sign forms. It should be the professional responsibility of any teacher at any level to respect ethos, which I argued when we debated section 37 of the Employment Equality Bill.

However, in this instance it is proposed to delete a subsection and not replace it with anything. There can be no justification for that. The House would accept that teachers should be respectful of the religious opinions of members of their class. It may not be necessary to say it, but it has been provided for by this subsection and it should have been retained.

Section 3(3) of the 1908 Act states:

Nothing in this section shall apply to any professor of or lecturer in theology or divinity; provided that no test of religious belief shall be imposed by the governing body of either of the two universities... on any such professor or lecturer as a condition of his appointment or recognition by the governing body...

I recognise that this is a different aspect but the fact that there was not a religious test since 1908, while now allowing for the inclusion of such a test, raises issues which the Minister must explain.

Section 44(d) provides for a change to section 7(4) of the 1908 Act, which states:

Any sums paid under this section shall be applied by the governing body of the university or college, as the case may be, in accordance with their charter or statutes, but no such sum shall be applied for the provision or maintenance of any church, chapel, or other place of religious worship or observance,...

This is being retained because the Constitution prohibits the State from endowing any religion. However, it is proposed to delete that part of the subsection which provides that money could not be allowed“... for the provision or maintenance of any... theological or religious teaching or study”. This will allow for the use of taxpayer's money in this area.

The subsequent paragraph to the subsection states:

Provided that nothing in this provision shall prevent the recognition by the governing body of the university of any professor of or lecturer in theology or divinity as a professor of the university so long as the professorship is founded and maintained entirely by means of private [235] benefaction, [hitherto, the State could not support the establishment of professorships of theology or divinity; it had to be supported by private benefaction] or the use of any building belonging to the university or college for any teaching given by such professor, or for any other religious teaching no part of the cost of which is defrayed out of public funds. But no student shall be compelled to attend any such theological teaching, or religious instruction,...

Why is it proposed to delete this? It is a very complicated section and I do not know the reasoning behind it. Why was it considered necessary to proceed in this way? Does it now mean that the State is signalling that professors do not need to be respectful of the religious opinions of their students? Does it mean that taxpayers' money can now be used for matters to do with religion, which are specifically excluded under the 1908 Act? Is this the proper way to proceed?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am concerned if Senator O'Toole is correct. I am sure that it is the intention of the Minister and her advisers that religious difference will be respected. Trinity College used to inquire about the religious denomination of undergraduates on registration. I am glad that, as far as I am aware, the practice has ceased. Although I believe in the complete separation of Church and State and so on, I would be sorry if a difficulty was caused, for example, in architectural terms with the preservation of the chapel in Trinity College, particularly since it is now fully denominational and ecumencial and is available for use to different Christian denominations. It would be a pity if there was an alteration which prevented Trinity using its resources to maintain the fabric of that building appropriately and properly. I assume some of the difficulty comes about because there are differences between the ways in which the Royal University and Trinity were established.

There is a faculty of theology in Trinity but it is not denominational. It is no longer a school of divinity and there is no longer a Regius professor of divinity. There is a distinguished professor of theology who is a former Roman Catholic priest, which is to be welcomed. I would like to think it were possible to have a properly constituted faculty of theology, although it would be inappropriate in modern university terms to have a department funded by the State simply being used for the preparations of ordinants for one particular sect.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Religious difference should be respected.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The NUI accepted this amendment. There will not be any difference in the conditions applying to the employment of staff between the constituent colleges and the other universities. The Employment Equality [236] Bill, 1996, and the Equal Status Bill, 1997, will ensure respectful treatment of staff and students in equality of employment. It could be argued that the reference to religious opinions reflected a certain preoccupation at the time with the passage of this Bill. A modern statement of these issues would involve a much wider equality policy, as is covered in section 34 of the Bill and in the other Bills. With the passage of the Bill, professors will no longer be centrally appointed by the senate of the NUI, but by individual colleges. Therefore, a central role for the NUI would be inconsistent. One of the core principles underlying the introduction of the legislation was to update it according to the wishes of the NUI, which I took on board. I will consult further on that section.

I prefer to pursue the rationale with regard to the second section. The NUI also requested this amendment. This is not being included without its knowledge. There will be no difference in the conditions applying to the teaching of religion and theology between the constituent universities and other universities. In Trinity, theology and religion can be taught, but they cannot under the NUI proposals. The Constitution provides that the State cannot endow religion, but this does not mean that religion cannot be taught in universities. Even if it were unconstitutional for the State to fund the teaching of religion, the removal of a legislative bar from such funding would not be unconstitutional; the funding would be.

The provisions in the Employment Equality Bill, 1996, will provide comprehensive and modern anti-discrimination provisions. The amendments were proposed by the NUI to level the playing pitch so that there would be no difference in the conditions applying to the employment of staff and the teaching of religion and theology between the constituent universities and other universities.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The Minister referred to the question of constitutionality in terms of the funding of professorships of divinity and so forth. Does the faculty of theology in Trinity come under that heading and cannot be funded by moneys which are at least derived in part from the State and have to be taken from the college's endowments? I am happy with the principle of separation of Church and State as it is not appropriate that the State should be expected to fund the teaching and promotion of one sectarian point of view, but at the same time it would be regrettable if the practice of the teaching of theology in a university such as Trinity were adversely affected by a lack of funds.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  That is a reasonable explanation of the first two sections of the Equal Status Bill, 1997. If I were a professor I would find it offensive to be asked to sign a document to say I would respect the ethos and beliefs of the people attending lectures. If we are removing a section from the 1908 Act and if that issue will be dealt [237] with in the Equal Status Bill, I will be much happier. Teachers at any level have a professional responsibility to be respectful of religious beliefs. I was worried that this was being taken out, and it seemed to be sending out the wrong signal.

I am not clear on amendment No. 148. There are complications involved. A private subvention was required for the establishment of the chair for Professor O'Doherty in UCD. My union was involved. I do not understand what is the impact of removing that section. Nobody will argue against providing a level playing pitch. Is there a danger that colleges will be required to spend money they do not have to match Trinity? What are the consequences of this proposal? No student should be compelled to attend any such theological teaching. I presume the reason that is being removed is that it would not arise. Some professorships of the type referred to, which until now had to be maintained by private benefaction, will be paid out of public moneys. That is a significant change.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Amendment No. 148 is easy to understand. The 1908 legislation prohibits the teaching of religion and it applies to the NUI. The prohibition on the teaching of religion will be gone. We have long looked to Trinity College for the teaching of theology at university level and now it will be available in the constituent colleges of the NUI. I will have to come back and clarify the matter of funding, but this section relates to the teaching of theology. The example given was of Trinity College.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I welcome the information that the prohibition on teaching religion in the constituent colleges of the NUI is to be abolished. Many people will welcome that, though what will emerge subsequently is a different matter.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I have learned a lot from this discussion and am glad I raised the matter. This was one section of the Bill that concerned me and it is on the record. Religion and theology are very valid areas of study.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I am glad Senator O'Toole raised this matter, as I would not have seen it. I am also glad that the Minister clarified that religious differences would be respected.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I welcome the Minister's comments as they illustrated the difference between teaching divinity as the proclaimed view of one Church, which was the situation in Trinity until 15 or 20 years ago. The intellectual discipline of theology has been greatly strengthened and improved by the introduction of people like Seán Freyne and other distinguished Roman Catholic theologians to the teaching staff. That would have been unthinkable and impossible when the divinity school in Trinity was the province of the Church of Ireland.

[238] I hope it will also be possible to refurbish and maintain the college chapel. It is available to all students and is part of the architectural tradition of the college. If they all became atheists it should still be maintained. On Report Stage I will raise the possibility of a constitutional bar on the college using funding for the retention of the function of the chapel. The building does not appeal to me — it is a gaunt Hanoverian barn — but it is an integral part of the complex of 18th century buildings and should be maintained.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 148 not moved.

Section 44 agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendment No. 149 should read “from and including `and”' in line 6. Is that agreed? Agreed. Amendments Nos. 150, 151 and 152 are related. Amendments Nos. 149 to 152, inclusive, to be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 149:

In page 33, subsection (2), to delete all words from and including “and” in line 6 down to and including “review” in line 9.

Is this the most useful relationship one could have between the new senate of the NUI and the individual colleges? I do not see the rationale for it or for doing anything that an individual college cannot do. There is potential for friction in one body acting as external examiner of another. This will create more problems than it will resolve. If requirements for external examining and other matters are necessary, this is not the most effective way to go about them or the one most conducive to harmony in the university. That is the reason for my concern at the list of rights of the senate over the constituent universities.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  These amendments delete the possible role of the NUI in establishing committees for reviewing the content and teaching of courses and appointing external examiners to assist in such a review. I was asked by the NUI to include such a potential role for the NUI in the Bill, and it is quite similar to the potential role for the board of studies, which the NUI asked me to delete. One goes out and the other comes in. I cannot support the deletion of this role because I have given the NUI a commitment to support this. It is what the NUI wants to be empowered to do by legislation and I do not want to recommend dismissal of that view.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  Many of these things need to be done along the line and I have no problem with that. However, it is unlikely to be conducive to [239] fostering the best possible relations or review system, though that is a judgement call.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 150 to 152, inclusive, not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 153:

In page 33, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following new subsection:

“(5) The Senate shall foster basic, strategic and applied research into the role of the university in society.”.

This is a slightly different linkage. I have long argued about how little research the universities do on universities. They research everything else but do remarkably little research on the university in society or the economy. We have fine Departments of Education but they are concerned with earlier stages of the educational stage. A role for the senate in fostering research would be useful, but if it does not see itself in that role, perhaps that should not be wished upon it. However, the lack of research into the university's role in society is a glaring lacuna.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The suggestion is too specific. This legislation should not set out the precise research priorities of the constituent universities or any of the other universities. An amendment such as this could cut across academic freedom, and surely an institution would decide on issues like this itself. I cannot accept the amendment in the interests of academic freedom.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  How long do we have? I was referring to the senate, an institution responsible for the university rather than individual universities. There ought to be an incentive provided by those concerned with university policy for research in that area. Second, an incentive ought to be provided by those concerned with university and higher education policy for research in the higher education area. The way universities have neglected research into universities verges on the scandalous. Universities are major institutions in society which, were they anything other than universities, we would expect universities to be researching and they do not research themselves. I accept the Minister's solicitude for academic freedom. My heart beats equally passionately for it. We will continue researchless into the new millennium.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 45 agreed to.

Section 46 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 154 and 155 not moved.

[240] Section 47 agreed to.

Amendment Nos. 156 to 158, inclusive, not moved.

Section 48 agreed to.

Section 49 agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendment No. 159. A closed bracket should appear after “described” in this amendment. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 159:

In page 34, subsection (1) line 31, to delete from “(in which case it may continue to be so described),”.

It seems that the phrase “in which case it may continue to be so described” implies that the Minister could not only recognise new universities but derecognise old ones in which case it may continue to be so described. I am sure that was not the intention. Why is it necessary to include that? Is there a specific reason?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I am not sure of the precise technical effect of accepting this amendment but the phrase in brackets is there to outline that the Bill cannot affect any institution using the title university before the publication of the Bill. I not think that the intent of the Senator would be to affect such an institution. If that is the intent, it would be challengeable in any case so I do not favour this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 50 agreed to.

First and Second Schedules agreed to.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 160:

In page 36, paragraph (3), line 4, to delete “six” and substitute “twelve”.

The meetings of governing bodies of universities are highly seasonal. There may be only two meetings in the six months between May and October. The Bill does not state the number of meetings there are to be, but it struck me that it would be a little harsh for somebody who missed two meetings over a six months period to find themselves removed unless they remembered to send in apologies or whatever is intended. Is simply accepting an apology for absence meant to be approving? If that is the case, there is no problem.

[241]Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The effect of the amendment would be to allow a member of a governing body not to turn up at any meetings for nearly a year and the subsection, as it stands, is flexible enough. A person must not be absent for more than six months other than for illness or with the specific provision of the governing authority. It is only to keep the lines of communication open between members of a governing authority.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 161:

In page 36, paragraph (5) (i), line 24, after “occasioned” to insert “at its first meeting subsequent to the vacancy occurring.”.

The purpose of this amendment is to keep movement going because one can find situations where it might be in the interest of somebody to keep a place empty for a while where a key election was coming up, for instance.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I am certainly learning a great deal about the motives of people who serve on governing bodies but,——

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  Senator Cregan gave a graphic description.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  ——given the Senator's great experience, I suggest we will return to this on Report Stage and perhaps be ready to insert “as soon as practicable”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 162 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendments Nos. 163 and 164 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 163:

In page 37, paragraph (8) (2), line 20, to delete “related” and substitute “aware of being related”.

Amendment No. 163 has earned me a reputation for being pessimistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. To preserve the reputation for absolute straightness, I shall withdraw that amendment.

Amendment No. 164 is a little different. I do not know the standard practice but if, in fact, somebody is related, I do not see why a governing authority should have the right to keep them on an appointments committee, for instance. If a person is a relation — I do not know how close the relationship must be; is it brothers or cousins? — I would not give the governing authority the right to decide to let somebody on an appointments board in those circumstances. They should not serve automatically.

[242]Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  A provision allowing a governing authority to have some discretion is not necessary. There is every possibility that the candidates may be related to a member of the governing authority in a close or distant way. In allowing the discretion, the section allows the governing authority to look at each additional case.

The amendment proposed to insert “aware of being related”. Surely it would be the case that somebody can only declare that they are related to someone else if they are aware of the fact. I think we are down to the semantics of the hour of the morning. It is my considered opinion that the amendment is unnecessary.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I am a little more concerned about amendment No. 164 but I will not press it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 164 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendment No. 165 is in the name of Senator Henry. Amendment No. 166 is an alternative. Therefore amendments Nos. 165 and 166 may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I move amendment No. 165:

In page 37, paragraph 8(3), line 29, after “interest.” to insert “This section shall place no restriction on the right of staff, student or alumni members of a governing authority from representing the views of those who elect them. Nor shall it restrict such representatives from expressing any views at odds with the views of a governing authority or the executive.”

Senator Henry gave me permission to move any amendments for her so that they may be reinserted on Report Stage.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  There was much debate on the question of representation by different bodies on the governing body. The Bill states in page 37, lines 27 to 29, that a “member of a governing authority of a university shall at all times act, as a member, in the best interests of the university and shall not act as a representative of any special interest”. Does the representative have the right to report back to the body which he or she represents on the governing body? If not, is there not a restriction which should not be placed upon them if they are representing a particular body on the governing body of the university?

Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  I agree with Senator Sherlock, particularly when a student, for example, who is elected by the students, needs to air an issue before the board but also needs to report back to the sutudent body to allay any fears which may exist. If it is interpreted as narrowly as it can be, it will muzzle the students or other staff members who have a disagreement with the way the university is run.

[243]Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Having formally moved the amendment on behalf of Senator Henry, I join with other Members in the general feeling of support from both the Government and Opposition sides of the House. The principle is a question of freedom of expression. I can envisage a number of instances, although nobody could quarrel with the phrase “in the best interests of the university”. That is fair enough, but why should there be a complete chorus of unanimity? Why should a dissenting voice not be raised? Why should special interests of some kind not be expressed which are valid, worthy, and although a special interest, may be in the long-term in the best interests of the university?

The general ethos of the Bill will be strengthened by accepting the principle of the right to freedom of expression even of a minority or dissenting viewpoint. Everyone would accept that the best interests of the university should be served but it may be acting in the best interests of the university to express a dissenting voice. I would hate to think that some kind of homogenised orthodoxy was being imposed under this section of the Bill.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I agree with the points that have been made. There should be freedom of expression. The purpose of having a student representing the student body is to relay whatever information is necessary. It must be in the best interests both of the university and the student body but we must be fair in our reporting. That is very important.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  This issue was first raised by Senator O'Sullivan and Senator Kelly. Senator Lee proposed the amendment which addressed the same concerns. It was never the intention of the Bill to muzzle anybody. The idea of democratising the governing authorities was to draw in people with a variety of experience and backgrounds, be they lords mayor or whatever. The Bill seeks to avoid the position that any member, having expressed his or her views, might then act on behalf of special interests at the expense of the vested interests of the university.

I have served on a limited number of boards where normal procedures provide for confidentiality concerning discussions. However, there is no muzzle on people expressing views. The normal representation role exists. I want to strike a balance and I have said I will look at the issue on Report Stage.

The second part of Senator Lee's amendment No. 166 states that “all members of the governing authority shall have equal rights of participation on all issues at all meetings of the governing authority”. I would have thought that this would necessarily be the case but if there is a genuine concern that it is not the case we will come back to it also. Freedom of expression is provided for and normal procedures of confidentiality apply to all members, not just students. They would have to be reasonable and would have to be adopted.

[244] There is a technical difficulty about subsection 13 relating to the actions of a governing authority if it subsequently discovered that a member had been incorrectly elected or appointed. I will come back to that.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I wish to make a point concerning capitation and the dispersment of moneys by the central college authorities, involving the recognition of a student society. It may be that a student society would be unpopular with either the conservative or liberal wings of a university. It might be outside the scope of the broad middle ground but at the same time it may well be in the best interests of fostering diversity in the university that the viewpoint be strongly represented at the board. As presently formulated that would be improper because the section states: “no special interests shall be represented”. In a healthy debate there are occasions on which a special interest may properly be represented in circumstances where, for example, a club or an association within the university, which is not popular with some members of the administration, comes up for recognition. Subsection (3) could be construed as muzzling anybody who wanted to speak on behalf of that society or group and that would be a pity. At the same time, of course, nobody would challenge the proper nature of the requirement to act in the best interests of the university. However, as presently constituted, it is too restricted and would not allow for the kind of situation I envisage. I could give some examples but it might be rather boring and dull. The Minister probably accepts the principle and will look into that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 166 not moved.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 167:

In page 37, paragraph (10)(1), line 36, to delete “the chairperson” and substitute “it”.

The authority rather than the chairperson should determine the number of meetings. It can be proposed by the chairperson but it ought to be agreed by the governing authority. That allows for much more harmonious conduct. Paragraph (10)(2) states that: “the chairperson shall convene a meeting whenever requested to do so by not less than the number of members who constitute a quorum”. I would have thought that would be largely subsumed under the governing authority itself determining how many meetings it needed to have annually.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Very often when legislation of this nature is passed the local administrative body, which is the authority, would have standing orders. However, there is no provision for standing orders in the legislation. The point is relevant.

Is there a restriction on reporting the proceedings of the authority? If so, who has any authority to give information? We are talking [245] about a substantial investment of public moneys in a very representative body.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Section 15 states that “subject to this Act the governing authority of a university may make from time to time such regulations as it thinks fit for the conduct of the affairs of the university”. The standing orders are there. In saying that, the governing authority rather than the chairperson would decide when the governing authority meetings are to be held. We have already had a suggestion from Senator Lee that people might only meet every six months. There could be a major problem if some issue arose three weeks before the next meeting the governing authority had decided upon. We were not giving a mechanism for arranging a meeting at short notice. This is to allow such meetings. The power of the chairperson would give that flexibility because there may be a gap between scheduled meetings of the governing body. It is a mechanism which is being used instead to allow meetings to be arranged at short notice.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Is amendment No. 167 being pressed?

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  It is potentially a more substantive issue than it may appear. If questions of tension arose between any substantial number of members of the governing authority and the chairperson, these can be used in the interests of one or other groupings. I will not press the amendment. I can see the point the Minister makes. I may try to come back to it briefly on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 168:

In page 38, paragraph (12), lines 8 to 9, to delete “in the opinion of the chairperson or other person presiding consensus is not possible”, and substitute “a vote is demanded by a majority of the members present and voting”.

This comes down to the balance between the chair and the governing authority. Paragraph (12) states: “Every question at a meeting of a governing authority shall be determined by consensus”. I remind the Minister that she thought my earlier amendment on how the commission would determine its conclusions was too prescriptive. This is a prescriptive model for a governing authority. I am not opposing that, but the amendment suggests that the meeting should decide on a voting basis whether there should be an agreement and then it should proceed by decision of the meeting rather than “in the opinion of the chairperson” which, in contentious situations, could be contrary to the views of a majority of those present.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Senator Lee's amendment would alter the manner in which a decision was made to have a vote. We could land ourselves in trouble about who could call for a vote to be [246] taken to decide if there should be a vote. The Schedule is clear enough as it stands.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Schedule agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendments Nos. 169 and 170 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  I move amendment No. 169:

In page 39, paragraph (7), line 2, after “officer” to insert “currently in office”.

Perhaps we should introduce a degree of flexibility into the length of time a chief officer can hold office. Ten years is mentioned in the Schedule but perhaps the office might be more attractive to candidates if there was an option of resigning after seven years on appropriate terms so they were not faced with a ten year stint with no possibility of change. I remember the ten year period being discussed in my college when it was introduced and there was much support for seven rather than ten years. No one raised the possibility of ten years with an option of leaving after seven years or between the seventh and the tenth year. The question of recruitment to and exit or resignation from a position is important in terms of quality of university performance.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I would prefer not to accept the amendment. The conditions of service of existing staff cannot be worsened by the legislation. The insertion of a particular term of office for existing chief officer, where it differs from their present term, cannot be accepted because we have already moved forward by not disturbing the conditions of those in situ. The Bill provides that future chief officers serve for ten years. The Senator mentioned seven years, but more than ten years would kill anyone. The universities sought a ten year period and I have no reason to recommend otherwise.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  There is no question of inserting “currently in office”.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  No.

Professor Lee: Information on Joe Lee  Zoom on Joe Lee  The universities sought a ten year period because that is what they are comfortable with. A Secretary of a Department is appointed for seven years. There is scope for more flexibility because these are issues of substance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 170 not moved.

Fourth Schedule agreed to.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I move amendment No. 171:

In page 39, line 31, after “Finance” to insert “except in the case of a university or universities which have a funded pension with appointed trustees, in accordance with existing pension legislation”.

This deals with the question of superannuation, pensions, gratuities, etc. The Schedule states that if there is a dispute between the recipient and the source of the pension about the amount, it should be referred to An tÚdarás. My amendment states that there should be an exception where there is an existing “funded pension with appointed trustees, in accordance with existing pension legislation”. The existing arrangement, which is legal, should not be disturbed.

I am a member of a pension fund in Trinity College which is part of a commercial deal with an insurance company. I am on semi-permanent disability benefit, but I have been hounded by these people. They have written to me stating that I am still involved in public life. I have replied by stating that one of my colleagues was in a wheelchair, so would they suggest he jump out and conduct physical education classes? I have also suggested that the disabled, in whose glorious ranks I am prepared to admit myself, should be entitled to parliamentary representation.

They have snooped around in an extraordinary manner. I have received a number of letters to which I replied so vigorously that I was asked not to do so again as they caused nervous disturbance to those who read them. However, I am unrepentant. I received one recently from the head office in Edinburgh which stated that they had arranged a visit at the “above address”. I responded by thanking them for their letter and telling them that they had greatly exceeded the scope of their powers because what they referred to as the “above address” was my home and it was beyond their capacity to invite a third party, whose qualifications, age, sex, height and weight were not specified, to invade it. I am already having difficulties with these persons, so I do not want to get entangled with An tÚdarás as well.

It would be a good idea to leave the existing pension schemes, which are awkward, and not involve An tÚdarás; in other words, the existing pension arrangements should be permitted. I look forward to returning to this theme when the insurance industry is investigated in this House. I may be light-hearted about this matter but these letters have been sent to various people without consultation with the university. One such letter was sent to an employee who had taken retirement on health grounds because of a nervous breakdown. This person was catapulted into a second one as a result of receiving such letters. This exception is reasonable.

[248]Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  I am persuaded by Senator Norris on this matter. He has the capacity to turn an unpleasant situation into something which can be portrayed in an amusing way. This matter is more relevant to the investigation of the insurance industry. Perhaps we could consider it in that context.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I look forward to such an investigation but, in the meantime, perhaps the Minister could clarify if this exception will be allowed.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The effect of the amendment would be to provide that where a university has a funded pension scheme with appointed trustees the provisions of subsection (5) relating to the resolution of disputes would not apply. The Fifth Schedule will apply to the superannuation of arrangements of people who are employed by universities after the passing of this Bill.

It is normal practice for schemes which are funded largely by public funds that the determination of disputes would be submitted to the Department of Finance. It is hoped that there will be very few such disputes, given the duty of trustees to comply with the relevant pensions legislation. I would not favour an option whereby the resolution of disputes for all such schemes would be subject to the agreement of the Ministers for Finance and Education. The involvement of the Minister for Finance ensures a co-ordinated approach to the resolution of disputes for all pension schemes that are funded largely from the public purse. It is of note that over £20 million per annum is provided by the State for superannuation payments in the case of the universities. The total of accumulated funds is in excess of £400 million.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Do I take it that nothing in the Minister's response excludes the possibility of exempting existing pension funds which have been paid for from employees contributions and in respect of which trustees have been appointed in accordance with existing pensions legislation? In other words, the existing Trinity pension scheme will not be altered or interfered with in any way.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The Senator's existing pension arrangements will not be altered.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  In some ways I wish they could be altered.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The Fifth Schedule will apply to the superannuation of people who are employed by universities after the passing of the Bill.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  This seems to envisage the imposition of a new funding arrangement on the universities. Some of them may welcome such a development but I am not sure that Trinity College will do so. The existing scheme appears to be satisfactory and it might be better to continue that and leave it [249] to be determined by the normal forces that operate in respect of insurance and pension schemes. Will the Minister provide information regarding whether there is substantial State investment in the Trinity pension fund? I understand that this is not the case. Is she suggesting that the State will subsequently contribute?

Perhaps I am misinformed, but my recollection is that the Trinity scheme is independent and is funded by a combination of contributions from the employees and the university. I am not aware of any massive State investment. I presume this situation will continue. If that is the case, it is not adequate to state that this will not affect people employed before the passage of the Bill. It should be stated that the provision will involve everyone in the universities after the passage of the Bill. It may well be that Trinity will wish to continue with the existing arrangement.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  The involvement of the Minister for Finance ensure a co-ordinated approach to the resolution of disputes for all pensions schemes that are funded largely from the public purse.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Does that involve the University of Dublin? If the relevant information is not available, I will be happy to return to the matter on Report Stage. My understanding is that the Trinity scheme is largely independent and is funded by the college and its employees, which would make it substantially different. However, my information could be incorrect.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  In the interests of clarification, we are discussing the superannuation of people employed by universities after the passing of this Bill. Substantial funds are involved and I reiterate that this matter concerns pension schemes that are funded largely from the public purse. The Department of Finance has indicated that it wishes to retain its role in resolving disputes involving such funds. I am informed that these accumulated funds total £400 million.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I accept the Minister's statement. However, it is not stated in the Schedule that the provision applies only where these schemes are largely funded from the public purse. My amendment provides for cases where such schemes are not funded from the public purse. However, perhaps we can tease the matter on Report Stage. I will withdraw the amendment with a view to reinsertion on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Fifth Schedule agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Cregan): Information on Denis Cregan  Zoom on Denis Cregan  Amendment No. 172 was already discussed with No. 3. Is the amendment being pressed?

[250]Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Subject to the Minister's commitment to expedite matters relating to this Part of the Bill on Report Stage, the amendment is not being pressed.

Amendment No. 172 not moved.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.

Report Stage ordered for Thursday, 24 April 1997.

Acting Chairman:  When is it proposed to sit again?

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  At 10.30 a.m. today. Had the Committee Stage debate on the Universities Bill debate taken place next month we could have adjourned to take breakfast on the lawns of Trinity College.


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