Merchant Shipping (Commissioners of Irish Lights) Bill, 1997: Committee Stage.

Wednesday, 22 October 1997

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 152 No. 6

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An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  Amendment No. 3 is consequential on amendment No. 1 and may be discussed together.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I move amendment No. 1:

1. In page 3, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following definition:

“‘civilian navigational purpose’ means the purpose of providing maritime navigational assistance to civilian vessels and aircraft exercising the freedom of the high seas or the right of innocent passage on or over the territorial seas of the State:

Provided that a system provided or operated for such a purpose shall not be deemed not to be a radio navigation system within the meaning of this Act by reason only of the fact that it may assist also the navigation of military vessels or aircraft, if the system or any part of it was not designed, constructed, adapted or operated solely or principally with a view to providing such assistance to military vessels or aircraft (other than the military vessels and aircraft of the State);”.

I am delighted the Minister is present to discuss this legislation. It is appropriate before discussing the amendment to put on record that the explanatory memorandum to the Bill states:

The need to introduce this Bill arose out of a Supreme Court judgment of 18th July, 1996 which upheld a High Court decision of 4th October, 1995 to the effect that the Commissioners' powers under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894 could not be interpreted to include the provision of radio-based aids to marine navigation which were unknown at the time of enactment. The purpose of the Bill is to empower the Commissioners to continue to provide such modern technological aids in the interests of maritime safety and to make further provision in relation to the functions of the Commissioners. The Bill gives retrospective effect to these powers, where appropriate.

Many of the sections deal with such retrospective effect being given to the powers of the commissioners. We propose in this amendment to insert a new definition of civilian navigational purpose which:

.. means the purpose of providing maritime navigational assistance to civilian vessels and aircraft exercising the freedom of the high seas or the right of innocent passage on or over the territorial seas of the State:

Provided that a system provided or operated for such a purpose shall not be deemed not to be a radio navigation system within the meaning [393] of this Act by reason only of the fact that it may assist also the navigation of military vessels or aircraft, if the system or any part of it was not designed, constructed, adapted or operated solely or principally with a view to providing such assistance to military vessels or aircraft (other than the military vessels and aircraft of the State);”.

This is a relevant addition to the Bill. The Fianna Fáil party in both the Dáil and the Seanad vehemently expressed concern at the possibility of this Bill providing for the joining of NATO or a military alliance. It is our intention that this amendment would encapsulate how the Bill should work, that it only be used for civilian purposes. There may be occasions when a military ship or aircraft might request the use of the navigation aids referred to in the Bill and there is nothing wrong with that. However, without this amendment we would be concerned that this Bill could be used in a military situation to allow decisions to be taken by the commissioners without reference to the Dáil. There could also be reference to the financial aspects. This is purely for civilian navigational purposes. This amendment will strengthen the Bill and ensure that no loopholes exist which have to be dealt with at a later stage.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher  Zoom on Pat Gallagher  I second this amendment. Many of our amendments are intended to legally clarify that Ireland is non-aligned militarily. Occasionally we co-operate in international military operations, particularly peacekeeping under the auspices of the UN. However, the Dáil must consent to such operations because we are non-aligned and the Government cannot enter any arrangement with a foreign military power without the approval of the Dáil. This amendment will ensure that the necessary powers which the commissioners are being given are not used in an unauthorised manner, such as providing facilities to foreign military powers without the expressed will of the people as expressed through the Dáil.

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I note that Senators have concerns about the interpretation which may be put on these definitions. They are concerned that the navigation systems would be used solely for civilian purposes. I wish to distinguish between the provision and use of radio navigation systems for civilian and military purposes. These systems are used by both Irish and foreign military vessels and aircraft during search and rescue operations. There is ongoing co-operation between Ireland and the UK in air and sea rescue missions. When the need arises, UK military vessels and aircraft carry out vital, lifesaving operations in our jurisdiction; we do likewise in the British jurisdiction. The records of the Irish Marine Emergency Service show that UK military vessels and aircraft assisted in our rescue operations on five occasions so far this year; UK assistance was provided in [394] 22 operations in 1996. United Kingdom military assets have been called upon to provide valuable assistance to our search and rescue authorities on no fewer than 159 occasions since the beginning of 1990. These figures clearly show the scale and importance of full co-operation from non-civilian, foreign services in protecting the safety of life at sea.

Less than two years ago there was a tragic fishing accident off Howth in which an RAF helicopter with night flying capabilities provided valuable assistance. That accident gave rise to a review of Irish helicopter capabilities on the east coast and my Department is currently evaluating tenders for a new medium lift helicopter to provide significantly important coverage in the Irish sea. I envisage that this facility will be in place by the beginning of July 1998. It will be a particularly important development in the Irish Sea where we co-operate on an ongoing basis with the UK authorities in rescue operations.

The 1979 Search and Rescue Convention, to which Ireland is a party, imposes an international obligation on all state parties to co-operate with search and rescue operations undertaken by neighbouring states. This convention stipulates that signatories to it shall enact legislation which will facilitate such co-operation to the greatest possible extent. To insert the type of provisions under discussion here in our national law would run contrary to this international principle. Search and rescue knows no political, geographical, civilian or military boundaries. The provision of navigation systems which are required to assist search and rescue operations should not, therefore, have boundaries imposed on them. No legal provisions should be put in place which could in any way, or at any time, hinder any type of vessel or aircraft from providing the greatest possible assistance when called upon.

The proposed inclusion of a definition concerning civilian navigation purpose arises from the proposed amendment to the definition of radio navigation system which would mean that such a system could only be provided for a civilian, instead of any, navigational purpose. I would point out that the current definition of a radio navigation system seeks to capture the reality of what such a system is and does not differentiate between its potential use by civilians or otherwise. It is obvious that any radio navigation system can be used by anybody who wishes to do so regardless of for whom, or the purpose for which, the system is provided. I should also point out that while the definition of radio navigation system takes account of the fact that certain such systems can be used by aircraft, the commissioners' powers to provide radio navigation systems under sections 2 and 3 specifically relate to maritime navigation.

I wish to stress that the Commissioners of Irish Lights do not intend nor would they have any reason to provide a radio navigation system solely or principally for the purpose of assisting military vessels. However, certain radio navigation systems, [395] like other forms of technology, were originally developed by the military and have since become important for civilian use. I am thinking of the Loran C, the global positioning system known as GPS and the DECCA navigator system.

Senators will be aware from my Second Stage speech on the Bill that the commissioners have provided an enhanced form of GPS know as differential GPS or DGPS. This system involves the provision of a more accurate GPS signal through the use of radio beacons from which differential corrections are transmitted. The DGPS which the commissioners have provided is an encrypted service and they plan to provide an unencrypted system in conjunction with General Lighthouse Authorities in Britain which will be available free of charge for the benefit of seafarers. The development of an unencrypted system is an important one.

It is widely recognised that DGPS is a very useful navigational system but it is dependent upon GPS which was designed, and is currently operated, by the US military. This is a classic example of what is effectively a military system being adapted and provided for civilian use by the commissioners. If I or the House accepted these amendments it would effectively mean that the commissioners could not provide this important navigational tool. Senators will be aware of the firm commitments I have given on Loran C. I will deal with this in more detail in the context of my amendments to section 3. For the reasons outlined, I do not propose to accept the amendments to section 1.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  It is clear from the tone and tenor of amendments Nos. 1 and 3 that we are trying to establish the core of this Bill — what is the purpose of the Bill and for what use it will be put in future. The Minister has given a very selective reply. He specifically dealt with the sensitive and human area of search and rescue and the relationship with the UK. It is well known that the UK and Ireland co-operate in a very significant way in the North Atlantic for the purposes of search and rescue. Both parties are to be commended for the tremendous work they have done in saving human life over the years. However, it must be remembered that this is done with the assistance of the GPS and DECCA systems upon which this success is based.

The Minister spoke of co-operation with other states, but he only made specific reference to the UK. What are the Minister's views on the amendment on co-operation with the French naval authorities, the French military and the French submarines in the North Atlantic? Does he envisage the Bill empowering the Commissioner for Irish Lights to provide navigational aid to these submarines, many of which are operated by nuclear power? We are anxious to have an answer to this question.

[396] The substance of the Bill is not clear. A very short Bill could have dealt with the decision of the High Court. However, a fairly substantial Bill has been put before us. I commend the Senators who have tabled this amendment because it seeks to get behind the purpose of the Bill but responding in a selective manner the Minister has failed to address the substantial issue. It is clear from what Senators Ryan and Gallagher have said that the amendment is not intended to interfere with search and rescue services or co-operation between the UK and Ireland in this area. They are referring specifically to military operations in the pursuance of a military objective rather than co-operation between the military and civilian authorities in the pursuance of humanitarian assistance.

I ask the Minister to address the broader issue inherent in this amendment. I hope he will respond to the specific issue regarding other EU member states and in particular co-operation with the French Government.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I was disappointed with the Minister's response. Everything he referred to in relation to search and rescue and safety is contained in section 1 which provides for maritime navigation systems to or from civilian vessels. As the Minister stated, there is a universal agreement that any vessel available, aircraft or ship, will come to the assistance of civilians and personnel in difficulty.

The original legislation was deemed to be unconstitutional. The existing legislation is completely out of date. There will be occasions when a submarine or aircraft will require use of the available navigation systems. There is nothing wrong with this. However, most of us remember that, some years ago, the Dáil was recalled to approve the use of Shannon Airport by aircraft on a United Nations mission. It was important that the Dáil dealt with this issue and our neutrality must be protected in the context of section 1 of this Bill. We should not give the commissioners the power to decide to provide navigational aid to submarines or aircraft of foreign countries which may be on their way to attack another country. I do not believe the commissioners would want this power and it is an issue of concern to us. The amendment deals with this issue. It also covers in a specific manner the concerns of the Minister.

Loran C can be discussed later, but the Minister has not given a sufficient reason this amendment should not be incorporated in the Bill, which would be strengthened by it. In view of our neutrality the people do not want our coasts, ports and navigation systems used for the wrong reason. The Minister has not made a sufficiently strong case to convince us that we should withdraw the amendment.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  How can this amendment be enforced? We should not provide navigation systems specifically for naval purposes. However, [397] this desire cannot be enforced as radio signals can be picked up by anybody. There is no point saying the signal is encrypted or that a decoder is necessary. All these codes can be broken and if a foreign vessel comes within range of a radio transmitting communication it will pick it up and take full advantage of it. Even if the Minister agreed that this navigational system would not be used for military purposes, how could he or his Department enforce this? It would be impossible. It is like trying to exclude some people in Clare from listening to Clare local radio. It is impossible because all they have to do is buy a small radio or transistor. Will the proposers of the amendment explain how this could be enforced if their amendment was accepted? I am not speaking about satellite navigation which can be encoded in a different way because the system has not yet been devised where a radio signal transmitted through air the air cannot be decoded. Unless I am interpreting the Senators' reasoning in the wrong way, I cannot understand how such an amendment could be enforced. It is like saying that the North Pole should be blocked out in order to devalue a compass. A compass will point to the North Pole and a radio system will pick up signals. How can this amendment be enforced and the transmission of a signal prevented? We should not provide assistance specifically to naval forces or anyone who would endanger our neutrality. This amendment cannot be enforced.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  Although the amendment is commendable in certain aspects, as someone who is technologically illiterate, I concur with Senator Tom Fitzgerald that it is not the Minister or the Government's intention that we promote or favour any navigational aid which deliberately colludes with military authorities in the waging of international warfare. This appears to be one of the main concerns of the other side of the House. I share that concern and I am confident from what I have heard from the Minister and Senator Tom Fitzgerald that they do also.

A fundamental shortcoming of this amendment — and I bow to technological expertise with respect and deference if I am wrong — is that while we can be empathetic towards the avoidance of deliberate participation or collusion in international warfare, there is no proposal incorporated in the amendment for a technological mechanism which meets all concerns. Senator Ryan proposes that a clear distinction be drawn between civil and military use; how do we then achieve the navigational purpose proposed by this Bill? Perhaps I missed that point and I would be delighted if Senator Ryan could enlighten me.

In other circumstances I would be supportive of the concerns articulated by Senator Ryan and others. Senator Taylor-Quinn spoke about other international examples. However, I was unable to identify an alternative which would meet all needs comprehensively — if there is one we [398] should hear about it, even if there are technological shortcomings.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher  Zoom on Pat Gallagher  Coming from the midlands, I defer to the expertise of Senator Fitzgerald in all maritime matters. His attempt at a practical demonstration led me to wonder why, if there are all these radio and telecommunication signals, MMDS companies who provide multi-channel television in many parts of the country go to such lengths to encode their systems and charge people high fees for decoding equipment. If these signals are free to everyone, why is there so much talk about television deflector systems? The argument of the operators is that the systems are there and they are just passing them on.

Technologically, an answer can be found to almost anything. We are setting out a principle and the technological means can be found for it. The principle is that any powers conferred on the commissioners should be primarily for the purpose of assisting civilian navigation. It is a clear principle to which Members on both sides subscribe. All of us have been on alternate sides of the House at the various stages of consideration of this Bill. Our job is to set out a principle and it is then up to the technologists to apply the appropriate technology to enable that principle to be put into practice.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Having listened to Senator Tom Fitzgerald and Senator Liam Fitzgerald, I thought “Innocence, never hath I offended thee.” We could award them senior positions in the diplomatic service — their skills are impressive. I am impressed; they are men of such innocence that they do not see what Senators may be attempting in proposing this amendment. This amendment specifically enables the provision of signals for the national military vessels and aircraft of our State but it excludes those from outside the State. However that does not include the normal search and rescue service, which is not a military operation.

The Minister also raised the 1969 Search and Rescue Convention which we signed. Will he give us more detail on that and let us know what other legislation has been introduced to comply with that convention? It seems extraordinary that it would take us 28 years to introduce legislation to comply with it. Since this is a new factor introduced to the debate by the Minister he should elaborate on it.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  On the Senator's last point, that convention was signed in 1979. Inserting the type of provisions under discussion into our national law would run contrary to this international principle. The amendment proposes a new definition for the operation of the Commissioners of Irish Lights which states that “‘civilian navigational purpose’ means for the purpose of providing maritime navigational assistance to civilian vessels and aircraft”. That will be provided. One cannot exclude the provision of humanitarian services [399] to others in search and rescue operations. This legislation cannot limit the Commissioners of Irish Lights in that way.

The DGPS is designed, constructed and operated to assist the American naval and air forces in worldwide navigation, and we use it. There is discussion of the greater commercialisation of this service, which I mentioned on Second Stage, and that may have a bearing on future developments. Its use by civilians is incidental, though very important. We cannot exclude it because it was designed and operates for military purposes and was used exclusively for these purposes at some stages.

I have no argument with this issue, though it is not relevant to the purpose of the amendments. The Bill was initiated by the Opposition when in Government, and it did not see these problems then.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  They were beginning to be seen, but they were not pursued.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  There was only one problem with which is the one we are dealing. The Commissioners of Irish Lights are subject to the policy control and superintendence of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. Their operations and systems depend on funds made available by that Department and the Government, so there is no need for the concerns expressed about their operations. However, it is necessary to ensure that we are involved wherever necessary in search and rescue operations, as we are on a regular basis with the United Kingdom.

Senator Taylor-Quinn raised the issue of French vessels. The same would apply in that case. If a French vessel is in trouble, we will come to its aid just as it would come to our aid. That happens with fishing vessels, as the Senator knows.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  What about submarines?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  If people in submarines are drowning, we will rescue them as we would anybody else.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I am talking about providing signals to them from another source.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  We cannot stop that. Senator Gallagher spoke of being from the midlands—

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  He cannot get the signal

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  —and consequently being reluctant to speak on this matter. We have heard of the brilliance of a lighthouse in the bog, which is what the Senator reminded me of. However, he is obviously concerned by this matter.

Senator Tom Fitzgerald deals with shipping on a regular basis, and he knows that the signals are transmitted through the air. If you want to intercept them down, you can do so by getting a cheap [400] DGPS system. Then one has all the signals one wants from a military system installed and operated for military purpose all over the world. It is now being used commercially, and the Commissioners of Irish Lights are reinterpreting it back on our behalf. An unencrypted system is to be made available soon, free of charge, for the benefit of all seafarers. That is important because extra equipment will not have to be bought for that purpose.

I understand that Senators want to ensure we do not get involved in wars or other military activities, but that is neither the intention nor the function of the Commissioners of Irish Lights. They have a long history of rescue, protection and providing navigational assistance around the coast.

I referred to the Civil Loran C Agreement between different countries, which arises in connection with amendment No. 7, and I will deal with that when the amendment is discussed. Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 are well-intentioned, but they would create many difficulties if they were accepted, and I cannot accept them on those grounds.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  The Minister has not made a convincing argument nor has he satisfactorily answered the questions raised. Senator Gallagher rightly said that one can find a technological answer to any technological difficulty. The Minister has not been convincing in suggesting otherwise, unless Senator Liam Fitzgerald has a wonderful fountain of knowledge from which we are yet to hear.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  The Minister mentioned our international obligations. Our services facilitate seafarers from all over the world. I understand that when our seafarers travel around the world they avail of navigational aids which are quite similar to Loran C. We should bear that in mind before we espouse the principle that because there is a danger of military abuse of a system, we will deprive seafarers of its use if they get into difficulties.

Our international colleagues would not look very kindly on us opting out of collective responsibility in this area. The principle is commendable, but in practical terms, this matter presents a great technological challenge.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Senator Liam Fitzgerald is trying to introduce a red herring.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  We are all at sea.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  The search and rescue service is not restricted under this amendment. There could be a situation where there might be a submarine in difficulties in the Irish Sea or the Atlantic and it would be our duty to rescue people. That would be the response of any nation. We are trying to incorporate the extra definitions which we believe in and are part of our philosophy on neutrality. [401] The amendment strengthens the Bill under which the Commissioners of Irish Lights must operate. However, the Minister is not prepared to take this on board. He has the numbers on his side and he is going to push it through irrespective of the stated policy on neutrality.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  This has nothing to do with our neutrality and the Senator knows that. The Bill was prepared by the Opposition when in Government and now is before the House. Senators Ryan and Taylor-Quinn are raising this as a red herring. It is their red herring.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher  Zoom on Pat Gallagher  The Fianna Fáil councillors in Clare did not think so when they read this Bill for the first time.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  The rhetoric goes back to the last Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat Government.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  That is a red herring. The GPS system was designed to assist the US naval and air forces in worldwide navigation. Are the Senators suggesting that the Commissioners of Irish Lights should do away with that system? It is used now for commercial purposes and is being developed further. Do Senators want me to insert a provision in the Bill that the GPS system should not be available for navigation generally because its main purpose is to assist the US military? Senators on both sides of the House know that well. I am not prepared to do that so do not try to introduce any other red herrings. I do not want to upset the present situation and I am sure the Senator does not either but he is suggesting that I have some ulterior motive. I do not. The Bill was debated previously as it was introduced by the previous Government. The Attorney General and the tripartite Government of that time did not see any red herring in this Bill. The Senator chose to raise it on this occasion. It does not concern military operations; it concerns civil navigation.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher  Zoom on Pat Gallagher  We did not suggest that.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I tried to reply to what the Senator said earlier but he had left the House.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher  Zoom on Pat Gallagher  I heard the Minister. I am happy to shine in the Midlands.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The best of luck. It is not an easy place to shine.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  And not useless.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Senators know the situation. If I were to accept this amendment it would create difficulties for search and rescue, and in interpretation as this is the definition side of the Bill. I cannot accept the amendment on those grounds. If the Senator tables an amendment which will fit in with the present navigational methods and the [402] operations of the Commissioners of Irish Lights in their work I will be very happy to accept it. I cannot accept these amendments.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Yes.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, line 18, after “Marine” to insert “and Natural Resources”.

This is a technical amendment to give the Minister his full title in the context of the Bill.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  That is very nice of Senator Ryan. Since the new title is the “Marine and Natural Resources” the amendment is correct technically and in every other way and I am happy to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I move amendment No. 3:

In page 3, line 24, after “any” where it firstly occurs, to insert “civilian”.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Amendment No. 3 has already been discussed with amendment No. 1. Is amendment No. 3 being pressed?

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Yes.

Amendment put and declared lost

Section 1, as amended, agreed to.

Section 2 agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Government amendment No. 4 is consequential on amendment No. 7 and amendment No. 8 is an alternative to amendment No. 7. Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are related to amendment No. 8, so amendments Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 will be taken together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 4:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 30, to delete “The” and substitute “Subject to subsection (3), the”.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  These amendments provide that the powers conferred on the commissioners to develop and operate radio and navigation systems shall not apply to the Loran C system until such date as the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources may appoint by order and subject to any conditions he may specify in the order. [403] The amendment also provides that such a draft ministerial order shall come before both Houses of the Oireachtas for debate and shall not be made unless it is approved by each House of the Oireachtas.

The purpose of the amendment is to allow the Bill to be enacted as soon as possible thereby ensuring that the commissioners can legally operate and maintain their existing range of radio and navigation aids in the interests of maritime safety.

It also allows time for the Loran C issue to be reviewed in the context of the consultative process which I propose to initiate. It ensures that it is Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann which will ultimately decide on the future of the project.

Amendment No. 5 is restrictive and extends beyond the Loran C system. It could have serious implications in that it would serve to prevent the Commissioners of Irish Lights from providing future radio navigation systems which could be universally accepted as being of benefit to mariners.

Amendment No. 6 relates to Loran C and runs contrary to my amendment which allows this issue to be dealt with in its entirety. My amendment is more comprehensive than amendment No. 8, as it would mean that a Loran C system may not proceed, not merely at Loop Head but anywhere, without being brought back into both Houses of the Oireachtas for a full debate, in other words, the Loran C project will not proceed in any part of the country without the explicit approval of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann.

As I explained on Second Stage the Attorney General's Office has advised that to purport to exclude Loran C from the scope of the powers being conferred on the commissioners in relation to radio and navigation systems could be interpreted to be at variance with our obligations under the international agreement on Loran C which Ireland has signed. The international law of treaties stipulates that every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith. The Oireachtas, by adopting in national law such a provision, could be seen to be acting contrary to the international agreement into which Ireland entered in good faith. The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised that these proposed amendments could damage our international reputation. I believe the amendments I have proposed in respect of Loran C allow this matter to be dealt with comprehensively and it meets the interest of all concerned to the greatest possible extent. I do not, therefore, propose to accept these amendments.

My amendment was discussed at considerable length on Second Stage. It is included in amendment No. 7 and deals comprehensively in a fair and open way with the relevant issues. I ask Senators to accept the amendment.

[404]Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I am disappointed that the Minister is dismissing my amendments to section 3. However, he proposes to push his amendment through this House. I am disappointed he is adopting this attitude. The general essence of this amendment was put before me some seven or eights months ago by the Minister's predecessor. I found it unacceptable at that time and proceeded to draft a number of amendments which were under consideration when there was the change of Government. The Minister's amendment is a cop-out; it is not a straightforward and honest. It does not dismiss the Loran C system. I appreciate that due to international agreements the Minister must take this decision, but I have been long enough in both Houses to know how the system works and how orders work. I am well aware there are three types of order: the order that the Minister may make within his Department; the order that is laid before each House of the Oireachtas, lodged in the Oireachtas Library for 21 days and if not opposed automatically becomes law and the order the Minister makes where a resolution is presented before both Houses of the Oireachtas and is subject to a debate. We all know how these resolutions are debated in both Houses. They appear on the Order Paper, they are proposed by the Government Whip and usually nodded through by agreement. Anything that may be perceived to be difficult, senstive or of political concern is often pushed through, usually in the days just before Christmas or when Members are off their guard. It must be said that Members of both Houses do not have the back-up staff, research facilities or support systems the Minister has within his Department. An Opposition Deputy or spokesperson, or a Senator or Deputy belonging to the Minister's party, may be duped and this may reflect adversely on the particular Member.

On those grounds I cannot accept the amendment. It is a smokescreen that will allow Loran C to be put aside and slipped through when the opportunity arises. I see no need to table the amendment as I tabled a number of amendments to this section. I propose that section 3(b) reads as follows:

That the Commissioners shall have, and be deemed always to have had, in relation to maritime navigation, power to erect or place any radio navigation system of similar style and scale to those in current use.

I specifically state “of similar style and scale to those in current use”. In correspondence with the Minister's predecessor, I proposed a number of amendments on 13 February 1997. One of the amendments I proposed reads:

In page 4, section 3(1)(b), line 1, after the word “system” and before the word “with” to include “of similar style, scale and capacity to those in current use”.

When the Bill was introduced in the House this week, I redrafted the amendment to omit the [405] word “capacity” specifically for the reason stated by the Minister — so that it would not restrict CIL because of modern technological developments but in order that it would specifically prevent them from building a monstrosity such as proposed at Loop Head in the form of a 720 feet mast. I took cognisance of that point and redrafted the amendment to accommodate the Minister's concerns and acknowledge the advances in technology while ensuring that anything built in the future is of a similar scale and style to what is currently erected.

It is very disappointing that the Minister cannot accept my amendment. I believe it to be balanced and fair in the circumstances, and I urge the Minister to take cognisance of what I have said about this section. I also suggest that the section read “with all requisite works, roads and appurtenances, save in the case or except in the case of the Loran C system”. I would be happy if the Minister would accept my first amendment to section 3(b). I would be prepared to withdraw the latter amendment if the Minister would accept “of similar style and scale to those in current use” because of the concerns that exist in County Clare, particularly in the Loop Head and west Clare areas.

I will find it very offensive if the Minister decides that the wishes of the local people are disregarded, if the efforts and the work they have done over a considerable time is ignored just because the Minister has the power to ride roughshod over them. I expect more from the Minister and I hope he will reconsider his decision.

Amendment No. 8 reads:

(3) The powers aforesaid in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this section shall not apply to the erection of a LORAN C system or mast on the Loop Head Peninsula.

That is to be a new subsection to section 3. All the powers invested under (a), (b) and (c) of section 3 shall not apply to the erection of a Loran C system or mast on the Loop Head Peninsula.

The Minister said that his amendment was far more comprehensive because it was for the entire country, not just Loop Head. I am aware of what he says but I specifically included Loop Head so that the difficulty that arises in relation to legislating for internationally signed treaties could be dealt with. In that way the Bill would deal with only one specific area rather than being seen as an attempt to wipe out the system across the country. That would save face for the Minister internationally while, at the same time, resolving the problem on the ground in a particular part of the country.

The Minister must accept the reasoning behind the amendment and I hope he will find it in his heart to see the reason and sense behind it.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  It is very hard to listen to all that has been said today about the rights of the people of Clare being disregarded. That is total [406] rubbish as the Senator knows. A Bill identical to this was debated by the last Dáil earlier this year. Some of the Members who will vote for this amendment passed an identical Bill when they were Members of the Dáil. For the information of the House, that Bill was guillotined in the Dáil. The then Rainbow Coalition Government pushed that Bill through the Dáil, despite the tabling of amendments by the then Opposition. I cannot listen to the Minister being ridiculed for not acceding to these requests. That Bill then came before the Seanad. The then Minister, Deputy Barrett, whom I admire greatly, knew the Bill would not go through the Seanad in that form because the combined Opposition intended to vote it down on only one aspect — the Loran C mast in Clare. The then Minister withdrew the Bill from the Seanad.

A new Government then took over. The present Minister is abiding by the wishes of the people in County Clare, as the Senator knows, by tabling an amendment which clearly states that the navigational aids, which were probably deemed to be illegal, have to be rectified by legislation in such a way that the Commissioners of Irish Lights can continue to provide a service. However, the amendment clearly states the Loran C system and mast cannot be erected in County Clare without first bringing legislation before both Houses of the Oireachtas. What could be easier and simpler than agreeing with that?

The people of County Clare have nothing to worry about. The Minister explained it at length the last day. Somebody said we might all have been asleep. I never heard of any legislation being quietly slipped through this House—

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  What about the rod licences in 1989? The international convention itself was slipped through the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Senator Tom Fitzgerald, without interruption.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  The Senator knows in her heart and soul that I am one of the fairest and most unbiased Members of the House.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  That is true.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  I think that is agreed.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  I have agreed with Oppositions and Governments about legislation at different times. I understood from the Minister's statement to the House on the last occasion that he has also given a commitment to completely review the system and to meet with the concerned people in Clare. Given how navigational aids are developing, by the time all this is over Loran C could be forgotten and replaced with a new system.

I cannot listen to the Senator say the Minister is deaf to the voices of the people of County Clare and the rest of the country. He is not; he is [407] abiding by their wishes in tabling this amendment which clearly states the Loran C system cannot proceed without further legislation coming before the House. I ask the Opposition to accept the Minister's goodwill and I will leave it to him to repeat the explanation he gave the last day, in case people were asleep then.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  I support my colleague. I was disappointed and taken aback by Senator Taylor-Quinn's attack on the Minister.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  It was not an attack on the Minister but a statement of fact.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  It was a very forceful and robust rejection of what the Minister said.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  It was energetic.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Senator Liam Fitzgerald, without interruption. I ask the Senator not to provoke Senator Taylor-Quinn.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  I would not dream of provoking a colleague across the floor; that is not my style. I was taken aback, to some extent, because, listening carefully to the Minister and studying the wording of his amendment, it is apparent to any reasonable person that the Minister is attempting, after due deliberation following debate on a Bill introduced by Senator Taylor-Quinn's Government, to reach out as far as he can, given his international obligations. I am glad to note Senator Taylor-Quinn acknowledged the Minister's international obligations, although it was only by way of a passing reference.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I took cognisance of that in my amendment.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  The Minister must take cognisance of his international obligations. At the same time, he is taking due cognisance of the serious concerns of the people of Clare, those of the Senator from Clare and her colleagues and the wider concerns of the environmental factors.

As Senator Tom Fitzgerald said, it is interesting to note that Senators opposite who voted to adopt this Bill when they were Members of the Dáil seem to be on the opposite side of the debate now that they are Members of this House. We all acknowledge the benefit of hindsight and acquired wisdom. However, Members of the Opposition have not suggested there is any new scientific or technological knowledge to support their amendment. I must suspect a certain opportunism in this, although I am not in any way accusing Senator Taylor-Quinn of that.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  The Senator could never be accused of doing that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  I ask Senator Taylor-Quinn to allow Senator Fitzgerald to continue [408] uninterrupted. She will then have ample opportunity to make her contribution.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  The Minister is, in effect, saying that, after due consideration and deliberation, taking account of the concerns which were forcefully and robustly articulated during the passage of the Bill through the other House earlier this year, he has decided to table an amendment which will allow the legislation to go forward without the inclusion of that system at this time. The amendment gives an unequivocal and unambiguous commitment that the system can only be put in place with the imprimatur of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

I was disappointed to hear Senator Taylor-Quinn state that many issues of enormous import, environmentally and otherwise, have in the past slipped through the Houses unnoticed, without a vote, almost on the nod. It is disappointing that she should contemplate that her constituency colleagues in this or the Lower House should permit such a serious matter to be slipped through on the nod. I am sure she does not believe it.

The Minister provides that the Dáil and the Seanad may take a decision by way of a vote at a later stage if and when this issue arises again. He must do this against the background of meeting his international obligations. This is a responsible and considered way to approach what is a matter of concern in terms of environmental impact. None of us like high rise masts. They are ugly and environmentally intrusive, apart from other aspects such as emissions.

I appeal to the Senator to be fair in responding to what the Minster is attempting to do. He has had to be sensitive, careful and understanding and must publicly acknowledge his international obligations. I am sure the Senator will take due account of this when the debate on these amendments concludes.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I am impressed by the sensitive, caring and understanding halo which Senator Liam Fitzgerald has placed on the Minister. The presidential election campaign is impacting on him.

This legislation was passed by the Dáil. It was before this House last February but Second Stage was not completed. At the time I discussed the Bill with the former Minister, Deputy Barrett. He proposed an amendment similar to the one proposed by the Minister today. It was not acceptable to me then and the Minister's amendment is also unacceptable.

I have been consistent on this matter. By contrast, when Senator Liam Fitzgerald was a Member of the Dáil he voted against the Bill on 18 February 1997. While I would not attribute political gymnastics to the Senator in the interest of protecting his Minister—

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  There were no amendments at that time. An important amendment was proposed later.

[409]Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  The Minister must have been paired for that vote because his name does not appear on the voting list. However, many of the Senator's colleagues, including Deputies Walsh, Smith, O'Donoghue, O'Donnell, Molloy, Killeen, Harney, de Valera and Dermot Ahern, voted against the Bill. They are now part of the Government which is proceeding to push this legislation through the House. There is an inconsistency here.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  We now have the amendment.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  The amendment was in circulation seven months ago. I discussed it with the former Minister at the time and found it unacceptable. I proposed further amendments, which are now before the House.

Amendment No. 5 states: “to insert ‘of similar style and scale to those in current use’”. The Minister should accept the purpose of this amendment. It will not cause difficulties nationally or internationally. The Bill will still provide all the powers needed by the Commissioners of Irish Lights.

Reference was made to future consultation. This should have occurred before the Bill was reintroduced to the House. The Minister's predecessor agreed to the establishment of a forum that would meet interested parties and provide for consultation on all aspects of the matter. He also agreed that a new planning process would be initiated if Loran C were to proceed and that all other sites would be examined. The Minister has made no such commitments. He must address these matters.

If this matter were not so serious it would not be under consideration since 1992. Legislation has still not been passed by the Oireachtas. The Minister has a responsibility here. While I understand that he may have reservations about the other amendments under debate, he should accept amendment No. 5. It would meet the requirements deemed necessary by the people of west County Clare. It would also meet the Minster's national obligations and his concerns regarding his international obligations.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Senator Taylor-Quinn considers that amendment No. 5 would be useful. I have indicated why I am unable to support it. The amendment states: “‘of similar style and scale to those in current use’”. Loran C is in current use.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  We are legislating for the Republic of Ireland only.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The amendment is broadly restrictive and extends beyond the Loran C system. It could have serious implications in that it would serve to prevent the Commissioners of Irish Lights from providing future radio and navigation systems which could be universally acceptable as [410] being of benefit to mariners. In addition, other acceptable systems could not be adopted. There could be an additional complication because Loran C is in use elsewhere. The Senator said it was not an honest amendment. However, it is honest and straightforward. As I said earlier, it is good and suitable. It is not a smoke screen as the Senator suggested.

Senator Taylor-Quinn also mentioned matters slipping through the other House but the amendment tabled by her could be adjusted to suit any other Bill at any time. For example, if another Bill dealing with shipping was introduced, only a small amendment on Committee Stage would be required to remove that aspect from the legislation. However, the Government amendment ensures that no action can be taken unless it comes before both Houses of the Oireachtas for debate and acceptance and is included in legislation. There cannot be a tighter control.

Senator Taylor-Quinn said everybody knows how the system works and the notion of decisions made behind closed doors worries people. If that were the case, it would require the collaboration of all sides of the House. The Senator said matters can be rushed through on certain occasions such as just before Christmas when everybody is out doing their shopping or Members are off—

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Was the Minister about to say “gargling”?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I am not making fun of the Senator, rather the idea of it.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  The Minister can empathise with the reality.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  During my 21 years in the Lower House I have bought the occasional item at Christmas but I was always aware of what was before the House. Senator Taylor-Quinn suggested the Government could slip Bills through on such occasions. However, in the Fianna Fáil Party, and I presume in the Fine Gael Party, Members are notified at least a week before of the items that are due to be debated in the House. Fianna Fáil Ministers must appear before their parliamentary party and outline the legislation they intend to bring before the House. A list is also produced; I can show the Senator the agenda from today's meeting if she wishes. I am sure this also happens in the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party. Deputies and Senators are told what items are due to be debated.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Is there any chance the Minister could let us know what is coming up?

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  That is a good point.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Minister or the spokesperson must outline what is happening.

The whips meet and agree the schedule in advance. A list is then circulated to all Deputies and Senators a week before items are due to be [411] discussed. The document also states that Members must be present on certain days and cannot leave until various items are concluded. I do not know how well other parties are organised but this is the type of information Fianna Fáil Members receive.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  That applies 95 per cent of the time.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  There is no way an item can slip through. After Members receive notice of what is due to be discussed, the House also publishes a schedule of items to be taken each day. The Order Papers are available to all Members and one would be very negligent if one did not know that an issue was due to be taken. In addition, people hear about certain matters and raise them with Members. Senator Taylor-Quinn's point is unrealistic and a misrepresentation of the work done by the Members of both Houses. They are more vigilant and diligent about their work than the Senator's point suggests. I do not accept that problem exists.

The Government amendment meets the needs of the people of County Clare and others who are concerned about what may happen if the mast is not located at Loop Head in County Clare. It is a fair way to approach the problem.

Senator Taylor-Quinn mentioned the division on the Bill in the other House. I do not know where I was when that took place but I am present in the House 99 per cent of the time. It is extraordinary that I was not present.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  The Senator left out the Minister.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  However, the amendment had not been tabled at that time. It arose from subsequent discussions.

I did not wish to labour the point but Senator Tom Fitzgerald asked me to elaborate on my comments on Second Stage about the consultative process I intend to enter. I said I planned to table this amendment, expressly excluding the Loran C from the power of the commissioners. The amendment will ensure that the Loran C project will not proceed unless a new order is made by the Minister. It must be approved and passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas before it can come into effect. I said I would ensure that the Loran C project will not proceed unless new legislation is adopted by both Houses of the Oireachtas. I also pointed out that I proposed to initiate a comprehensive process of consultation on the project and that I intended to carry out a fundamental review of all aspects of the Loran C issue. I will do this in conjunction with the Commissioners of Irish Lights. This will allow me to hear at first hand the views of all interested parties, particularly those living in the Loop Head area.

[412] Amendment No. 7 would ensure that interested parties can contribute to the wide ranging consultation process which I envisage in the secure knowledge that no action whatsoever can be taken in the meantime to progress this project. I gave this undertaking on Second Stage and I reiterated it in a briefer form earlier. As I pointed out, that there are difficulties with each of the three amendments and I cannot accept them. However, the Government amendment is a good one and will meet requirements. I ask the House to accept it.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I wrote to the former Minister for the Marine, Deputy Barrett, on 13 February 1997 regarding the specifics of the Government amendment. If the Minister examines the files in the Department he may get a copy of that letter in which I suggested a number of amendments. They included amendment No. 5 which is now before the House but it contained an additional word, “capacity”. The Minister said this amendment would impede the use and installation of any future radio navigation systems which could be of benefit to mariners. This is why I omitted the word “capacity” in the amendment which now states “similar style and scale”. I recognise that advances occur in radio navigation and technological systems. I altered the amendment to make it easier for the Minister to accept it because it will not impede or hinder the acceptance or use of radio navigation systems which could be of use to mariners in the future. The Minister's argument on that point is redundant.

The Minister said his amendment was fair and responded to the will and wishes of the people of Clare, but it does not. He has not explained satisfactorily to the people of Clare the type of wonderful consultative process he will put in place. Will it take the form of a forum or a tribunal? If the Minister and I have a chat in the corridor, that could be considered a consultative process. We would like to know about the details, format and guidelines. Who will be involved in the process and what will and will not be acceptable? Will all questions be answered to the satisfaction of the people of west Clare and Loop Head?

Many questions which have been asked in various fora during the course of the debate have not been answered. These are serious questions such as who is promoting the Loran C system, who wants it and why is it necessary. Why did the Department of the Marine give the Commissioners of Irish Lights money to buy land to erect a Loran C mast when the commissioners knew they did not have the statutory power to purchase it? The Department of the Marine gave the commissioners the money to purchase the land — they were acting ultra vires, yet they knowingly did so. There is evidence in the Department to prove that.

In 1985 a Commissioner of Irish Lights sent a document, through the chief executive who was still in that position in 1994, to the Department. [413] It was clearly stated in that memorandum that the commissioners did not have the power or legal capacity to do what they did. It was also evident from that memorandum that they did not have the legal powers to build the Loran C mast but only beacons, lighthouses and other such objects, as stated in the 1894 Act.

Will the Minister say why the Department of the Marine and the Commissioners of Irish Lights proceeded in the knowledge that they did not have the statutory powers to purchase the land? Why did the Department provide money from the public purse to secure such a purchase? Why did the Department fund the commissioners to fight a case in the High Court knowing that they did not have the required powers, as stated under the 1894 Act? These are serious questions to which the people of west Clare have not secured answers in any fora. Will the Minister answer these specific questions and let us know when the people of west Clare will have the opportunity to put their questions and get satisfactory answers? If the history of Loran C over the past six or seven years is anything to go by, we will face another sad debacle.

We, the people of west Clare, will not accept this and as far as we are concerned, a Loran C mast will not be built on the Loop Head peninsula. The Minister may come into the House with his might and main and a massive majority and get this legislation through but a Loran C mast will not be built on Loop Head because the presence of the people in the area will ensure it does not happen. The Minister should take this into account as he pushes through his amendment. He will not accept the reasonable amendment I tabled, although he should do so.

This is a serious matter for the people in the area and the Government is running roughshod over them. It is unfortunate that the will and wishes of the people are not being considered. Many questions, which have not been answered during the debate that has taken place over the past four or five years, must be addressed. From what has been said today, the indications are clear that nothing will change in the future. When the legislation is passed everything will be hunkydory for the Department and the Commissioners of Irish Lights because they will have got the better of the people. However, I ask the Minister to stand back from this because the Loran C mast will not be built on Loop Head.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  If I did what the previous Government did and came before the House without such an amendment, I would appreciate what the Senator said. However, it does not make sense given the amendment before the House. This amendment clearly states that there will be no progress with Loran C on Loop Head or elsewhere without bringing further legislation before the House. That is excluded as far as this Bill is concerned.

I was concerned when I heard the Senator say the commissioners did not have the powers [414] required and then speak about documents in my Department. The question of documents in Departments is becoming extensive in that they appear to be coming from everywhere. Perhaps the Senator should put all the documents she has on the table so we might discuss them openly rather than her mention one from time to time.

It is possible that in 1985 somebody expressed a view that the 1894 Act could not be interpreted as including the Loran C system. I took it that legal advice was taken on the matter and that, on balance, the commissioners had the authority, as most people would assume, because the Loran C system was operating around the country. If we had kept to buoys and beacons and ignored the practices since 1894, we would still only have semaphore. It would defeat reason to think in that way. I assumed when I heard the Senator raise the point that such a decision had been taken. My officials have taken note of it. When an issue goes before the court, the matter is settled when an interpretation is given. However, before one reaches that stage, people use logic and reason and defer to legal advice. What happens in court may change everybody's view on a matter.

In 1988 the question was raised as to whether the commissioners were empowered to construct and operate the Loran C station. The answer to this important question hinged on the interpretation of the commissioners' powers under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, to provide buoys and beacons whose definition includes all other marks and signs of the sea. Both the Department of the Marine and the Commissioners of Irish Lights had historic legal advice to the effect that radio stations for the DECCA navigator system came within the commissioners' power to provide beacons although such radio systems were not contemplated in 1894. On the basis of this broad legal interpretation it was considered that Loran C, which is a similar radio system to DECCA, was within the remit of the commissioners' existing powers. However, as we are aware, the court has since adopted a narrower view of their powers. There was no case of something being hidden in the Department or by the commissioners or information being suppressed and kept from the public view in the Department. There was a difference of opinion. The logical, reasonable opinion of any mariner or person dealing with the sea was that DECCA was operating quite successfully for a long time. There were different kinds of beacons and it seemed reasonable such a system was within the terms but the court subsequently decided it was not. That is history. Legal people have different views. They can earn money arguing about cases but Departmental officials have a job to do and are practical people.

We spoke about rescue at sea and so on. When someone from the Commissioners of Irish Lights is out at sea there is no legal interpretation of where he stands. Such matters are thought about on dry land at a later stage. People assumed this [415] was a reasonable interpretation, which I do too. However, the courts have taken a narrower interpretation. As I understand it a slightly different interpretation was taken in some of the planning issues but that is up to the courts. I do not think anybody was up to something, acting surreptitiously or trying to hide something. The job was being done in a normal, practical way amid a minefield of legalities. We are now ensuring that issue is covered and are giving the commissioners the necessary powers. It is a very serious issue to which we must give a great deal of time and consideration and one which must be reviewed.

Senators asked about the consultative process. The only one I know of is to talk to the people concerned and listen to their views. That is what I will do. There is no great rush as we are making a provision which renders the matter less urgent. I fail to understand why the Senator cannot support my amendment the effect of which is to continue the powers needed by the commissioners. The other issue can be discussed at any length in whatever forum we wish.

As it is an important issue, I am prepared to enter into detailed and extensive discussions which will involve examining the developments and changes taking place and also examining issues in a current and future context. It will be more wide ranging than just having local discussions, which are also very important. We are making a provision which allows for wide ranging and detailed consideration of the developments taking place internationally and how these relate to the problems in this area.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  From what the Minister said, the consultative process will be a laissez faire informal operation in that no forum or tribunal will be formally established. Therefore, there will be nothing official about this process. That is not satisfactory and the process will lack teeth. The Minister said he will consult the people concerned and then introduce an order to the House, end of story. Unfortunately, that is the way I see it. He said he does not understand why I cannot accept his amendment, which is very clearly to keep Loran C centre stage. Amendment No. 5 is very simple and manages to save face for the Minister on an international level as it only refers to what is in current use in similar style and scale but does not refer to capability or capacity. It takes Loran C off centre stage and that is not what the Minister wants. That is why the Minister is not prepared to accept my very reasonable and balanced amendment. He said earlier that the amendment could be interpreted as meaning the Loran C system which is currently in place. I am amazed the Minister is not aware of the constitutional role of the Oireachtas as far as the Twenty-Six counties of Ireland are concerned. I am amazed he does not realise legislation which passes through this and the Lower House refers only to what is within this jurisdiction, the Twenty-Six county Republic, and makes such a [416] weak and naive argument to say this amendment is unacceptable.

The Minister's case is unsatisfactory. He has not referred to — indeed he has astutely avoided — the issue of the planning permission. He has not stated that an entire new planning process will take place if and when it is decided to proceed with a Loran C system. The consultative process seems as if it will be like a good chat between the local people and himself, the issue of planning permission has been astutely avoided and overall the situation is unsatisfactory.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I do not see the need for a formal tribunal at this stage. The Senator spoke about the constitutional role of the Oireachtas but what about the constitutional role of the Minister? I am the Minister, I have high regard for the office of Minister, and I will conduct my office to the highest level. I have never been dishonest with anybody. I am a Deputy almost 21 years and have been in several ministries. The Oireachtas and the Constitution give me that responsibility.

If people wish to have a tribunal let them come forward and say so but I do not see a need for it. I said I will talk to the people concerned and that is the first thing I will do. I am a new Minister in a new Government. I am not concerned with what happened previously; it is my problem with which I am dealing now in a forthright and straightforward way, using the mechanisms of the House which meet comprehensively the circumstances at present. The Senator wants me to involve my staff or other officials in a tribunal or forum. I would rather meet those concerned about the issue, listen to their views and address them. I would also have discussions with my officials, other officials involved and the commissioners, who are in touch with international developments, to reassess the global position. Times are changing as are technologies. I will examine all the concerns raised. If after that someone wants a tribunal, that request can be assessed. Nonetheless, I see what I have said as being part of my responsibility and function and I will carry it out.

The Senator said I wanted to keep the issue of Loran C centre stage. I do not wish to comment further as I have said what I will do. At this stage, I am putting it centre stage that the commissioners have the powers they need. We are leaving the other issue aside to be discussed at length.

The Senator spoke of the constitutional role of the Oireachtas and how legislation is restricted to the Republic. Amendment No. 5 gives a definition “of similar style and scale to those in current use” but that does not state where they are in current use.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  In the Republic.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  It does not state that. Apart from problems it would otherwise cause, the wording [417] would be taken to mean in general current use anywhere in the area of navigation.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Will the Minister accept an amendment on Report Stage to deal with that?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  No, because I do not want to impose such a restriction on the Commissioners of Irish Lights, nor do I see any reason to do so. If there are problems or issues in future, they can be referred to the Minister or the House. We are concerned now with one problem and we are addressing it in amendment No. 7. I cannot add much more as I have explained the matter as well as I can. What we are doing is sufficient to meet the circumstances. People in Clare will be happy with that because they understand what I am doing.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  On rereading the wording of the amendment, the Minister is not keeping the Loran C issue centre stage. He is requesting that it be left aside while all other aspects of the Bill are proceeded with. I do not know how that can be reconciled with Senator Taylor-Quinn's assertion that the Minister is deliberately keeping the issue centre stage. I am baffled by the difference between her assertion and my interpretation of the wording of the amendment. If it had been the Minister's intention to keep the issue centre stage, why did he bother including the amendment? Why did he not simply include the system in the Bill to be voted on by the House? The Senator spoke of the constitutional role of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Minister knows well it is the constitutional right of this House to decide to include or exclude the Loran C project.

The Minister, by way of his amendment, has shown he is prepared to go through the consultative process again, not just to return to the Dáil but to the process Senator Taylor-Quinn dismissed as trivial, evasive and not consultative. The Minister gave a commitment, in response to my colleague, the Government Whip, to consult again with those concerned about this project. Who else would he talk to but to those with whom the Senator has obviously been talking and whose concerns she so ably and effectively articulates today? The Minister has given an unequivocal and unambiguous commitment on the record that this is what he is prepared to do. He is prepared to turn back the clock and carry out this democratic process from the beginning. He is prepared to consult the people concerned, listen carefully to them, deliberate on what they say and only then start the legislative process in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I am sure the Senator did not intend to use the word “tribunal”—

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Forum.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  ——but apart from a tribunal, something which is becoming an anathema to the taxpayer, there is no more effective forum by which the Minister can embark on the comprehensive [418] review to which he has committed himself. He will return to the people concerned, those who articulated environmental concerns, listen to them and debate and discuss the issues with them. Having done that, he will proceed with the legislative process.

I suggest to Senator Taylor-Quinn that the Minister is doing the opposite to what she states. He is moving the issue from centre stage because of his understanding and acknowledgement—

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  His caring and sensitivity.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  —of the concern. He acknowledges and recognises that this issue needs to be re-examined. He is leaving it aside and allowing all other necessary and essential aspects of the Bill to proceed. If they were not necessary, the previous Government, of which the Senator's party formed a part, would not have introduced the legislation so quickly to begin with. I appeal to Senator Taylor-Quinn to acknowledge that the Minister is acting in a reasonable, responsible and considered manner by way of this amendment.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  As regards what the Minister said about amendment No. 5, it is clear that the wording “of similar style and scale to those in current use” means in the Republic. It would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise. If the Minister has a difficulty with that, perhaps he might accept my amendment No. 8 which states:

In page 4, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following new subsection:

“(3) The powers aforesaid in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this section shall not apply to the erection of a LORAN C system or mast on the Loop Head Peninsula.”.

That deals specifically with the problem which arises, leaves the Minister with a good international reputation and does not exclude him from the international agreement as signed. He can accept either amendment or both. They are more reasonable than what he suggests.

Senator Liam Fitzgerald stated the Minister is moving the issue from centre stage. This Bill empowers the Minister, the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources and the Commissioners of Irish Lights to proceed with Loran C. The Minister may be subjecting the issue to further discussion, but it does not move it from centre stage. Loran C is the focus of the fine detail of this Bill. This is a Bill of empowerment. It allows the Minister and the Department to empower the CIL to proceed with another caper, consultation or stunt, and we are back to the fundamental issue — Loran C. That is the bottom line. If the Minister has difficulty with amendment No. 5 he has his answer in amendment No. 8. That amendment states:

“The powers aforesaid in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section shall not apply to [419] the erection of a LORAN C system or mast on the Loop Head Peninsula.”.

This covers the Minister as far as international agreements and his international standing are concerned.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  I am worried by this amendment. Why mention Loop Head? I do not want this system in Kerry either.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  That is what we thought.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  The Minister's amendment covers all locations. I am not prepared to see any location mentioned in any amendment. Why Loop Head? They are also considering Kerry, in which case I would look to the Minister to introduce another amendment. This could go on and on. I am satisfied with the Minister's amendment regarding the Loran C system. Every Senator has concerns which we are putting off until another day. Parts of the Senator's amendment would prevent the commissioners repairing existing systems. I might be incorrect.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Only as far as Loran C is concerned.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  I am against the inclusion of a particular location in the Bill. The Minister is [420] deferring these matters, so why not accept his word? Senator Taylor-Quinn's problem is that she has too big an audience in the House. She is in great fettle for speaking when she has an audience.

Acting Chairman (Mr. R. Kiely): Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  With respect, these amendments have been discussed for an hour and we should put the question.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  On a point of order, I have been in fair fettle from the outset of this issue in 1991-2. I have been fully involved since then — not just today. Senator Fitzgerald accused me of being in great fettle because I have an audience. I do not know who is behind me. This issue is beyond any audience. It is a fundamental issue of principle.

Acting Chairman:  Senator Fitzgerald's comments were inappropriate.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  I have no problem withdrawing those comments.

Acting Chairman:  We have discussed these amendments for long enough and we should not delay business by becoming involved in silly things.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  They are not silly.

Amendment put.

Bohan, Eddie.
Cassidy, Donie.
Cox, Margaret.
Farrell, Willie.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Fitzgerald, Tom.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Gibbons, Jim.
Glynn, Camillus.
Kett, Tony.
Kiely, Rory.
Lanigan, Mick.
Leonard, Ann.
Lydon, Don.
McGowan, Paddy.
Mooney, Paschal.
Moylan, Pat.
O'Brien, Francis.
O'Donovan, Denis.
Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Quill, Mairín.
Walsh, Jim.

Burke, Paddy.
Caffrey, Ernie.
Connor, John.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Cregan, Denis (Dino).
Doyle, Avril.
Hayes, Tom.
Henry, Mary.
Jackman, Mary.
Manning, Maurice.
Norris, David.
Ridge, Thére se.
Ryan, Seán.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.

Amendment declared carried.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  Amendment No. 5 has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. Is the amendment being pressed?

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Yes. I move amendment No. 5:

In page 4, subsection (1)(b), line 1, after “system” to insert “of similar style and scale to those in current use”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  Amendment No. 6 has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. Is the amendment being pressed?

[421]Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Yes. I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, subsection (1)(b), line 2, after “appurtenances” to insert “save in the case or except in the case of the LORAN C system”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  Amendment No. 7 is a Government amendment and has already been discussed with amendment No. 4.

Government amendment No. 7:

In page 4, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following new subsections:

“(3) Paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to the radio navigation system known as LORAN C (within the meaning of the international agreement concerning the establishment and operation of the civil LORAN C navigation system in North West Europe and the North Atlantic done at Oslo on the 6th day of August, 1992), until such date as the Minister may appoint by order, subject to any restrictions [422] or conditions as the Minister may specify in the order.

(4) Where an order is proposed to be made under subsection (3) of this section, a draft of the order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the order shall not be made unless a resolution approving of the draft is passed by each such House.”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  Amendment No. 8 has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. Is the amendment being pressed?

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Yes. I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following new subsection:

“(3) The powers aforesaid in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this section shall not apply to the erection of a LORAN C system or mast on the Loop Head Peninsula.”.

Amendment put.

Burke, Paddy.
Caffrey, Ernie.
Connor, John.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Cregan, Denis (Dino).
Doyle, Avril.
Hayes, Tom.
Henry, Mary.
Jackman, Mary.
Manning, Maurice.
Norris, David.
Ridge, Thére se.
Ryan, Seán.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.

Bohan, Eddie.
Cassidy, Donie.
Cox, Margaret.
Farrell, Willie.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Fitzgerald, Tom.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Gibbons, Jim.
Glynn, Camillus.
Kett, Tony.
Kiely, Rory.
Lanigan, Mick.
Leonard, Ann.
Lydon, Don.
McGowan, Paddy.
Mooney, Paschal.
Moylan, Pat.
O'Brien, Francis.
O'Donovan, Denis.
Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Quill, Mairín.
Walsh, Jim.

Amendment declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  Amendments Nos. 9, 10, and 11 are related and may be discussed together.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I move amendment No. 9:

In page 4, subsection (3), lines 12 and 13, to delete”, because of any or all of its provisions, subsections (1) and (2) of this section” and substitute ”any provision of this Act”.

These amendments are intended to improve the Bill. Will the Minister outline his views on them? Their purpose is to ensure the Bill will survive a constitutional challenge. Sections 3 to 6 are retrospective so they may all need this provision of a Constitution saver.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The provisions of section 3 (3) of the Bill are standard technical drafting measures to take account of situations where retroactive legislation is introduced to remedy deficiencies in powers which have been established by the courts as a result of litigation. Those circumstances apply uniquely to section 3 and do not arise in the other provisions of the Bill.

I appreciate the point raised by Senator Ryan but I am advised by the Attorney General that it is not appropriate to apply subsection (3) to the [423] Bill as a whole. For this reason, the amendments are not necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I move amendment No. 12:

In page 4, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following subsection:

“(4) Nothing in this section shall be construed as conferring on the Commissioners power to provide or operate any navigation system which has as its sole or principal purpose the provision of maritime navigational assistance to military vessels or aircraft (other than military vessels or aircraft of the State).”

This amendment was discussed earlier and the Minister was not in a position to agree to it.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  As Senator Ryan said, this amendment was discussed at some length earlier. I assure the Senator that the Commissioners of Irish Lights have no function or interest in providing any navigation system which has as its sole or principle purpose the provision of navigational assistance to military vessels or aircraft.

The powers in relation to radio and navigation systems conferred on the commissioners in this Bill relate to maritime navigation only. There are occasions when military vessels, using the commissioners' navigational facilities, engage in activities other than of a specifically military nature. It is not unusual for military vessels to be involved in rescue in humanitarian or Red Cross operations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was ratified by Ireland on 21 June, 1996, provides for the right of innocent passage. This right applies to all ships, including military vessels. Such vessels are also entitled to use navigational systems to aid their safe passage. The provision of maritime navigational assistance should primarily have regard to humanitarian assistance, which should be capable of being given and received by all.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has further advised that for Ireland to adopt a distinction on the basis of a navigation system being of a military nature would potentially violate the international law of the sea. For these reasons, I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed: “That section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Will the Minister provide further detail on the assurances he gave on this section in relation to the consultative process? [424] What is the timescale? When is it proposed to commence? What form will it take? Where will it occur? Who will be there? Who will the local people be entitled to have with them? What will they be entitled to ask ? What type of answers will they secure?

Planning permission has not been referred to by the Minister despite my seeking his opinion on it. He has not said if he will agree to the commitment of the previous Minister, Deputy Seán Barrett, on planning permission. Deputy Barrett gave a commitment that if Loran C were to proceed, the entire planning process would have to start from the beginning.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.


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