Thursday, 11 May 2000
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Manning: I am slightly puzzled that we are taking the remaining Stages of that Bill today. It is an important Bill that needs a lot of amending. If changes are made on Committee Stage surely there should be an interval between those changes and Report Stage. I ask that only Committee Stage be taken today.
Can the Leader let me know his thinking on the request made by Senator O'Toole yesterday for a wide-ranging debate on the general state of politics, particularly the funding of political parties and the general standards expected in public life? Will the Leader arrange an all-party debate in the very near future?
There has been a story running for the past two days on housing. This House has addressed the question of housing on a number of occasions. The Government tried to address it in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and through  certain initiatives from the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Molloy. The current story relates to young people scrimping and saving to put money together, their parents putting themselves into hock and investing their retirement lump sums into their children's houses. All this is done in order to feed the insatiable greed of the construction industry. There is an horrific story today where young people with deposits on houses lost them because they were forced to try to put together as much as £150,000 over the two week Christmas period. Young people cannot do that.
We should come back to housing because it is a topical issue for everyone. It is the type of issue that this House should deal with. It is also a cross-party issue and it does not create a difficulty on either side of the House. I ask the Leader to consider the importance of ordering such a debate, particularly when we have reached the stage where the price of a site is more than half the total cost of a house. There is something wrong with that scenario. I would also like a Minister to be present to debate this matter.
Mr. Costello: I support the initial remarks made by Senator Manning on the Intoxicating Bill, 2000, and ask the Leader not to take all Stages today. We have reached Committee Stage. This Bill has been printed and published for a considerable time and it would be a shame to rush it through the House. I have a number of substantial amendments that would merit being teased out. I would also like the Minister to have an opportunity to examine the Bill, reflect on it and come back at a later stage. It would be more appropriate if we dealt with the remaining Stages next week.
In relation to Senator O'Toole's request, it is time we had another debate on housing. Of all the issues that we have debated, apart from Northern Ireland, housing is the second priority issue. Unfortunately, huge problems still exist. We still have a huge housing crisis in so many areas. The problem does not seem to have been addressed satisfactorily. I support a request for a debate on housing.
Can the Leader facilitate a debate on waste management? We had a debate on litter some time ago. A wide-ranging debate on waste management is necessary now because local authorities throughout the country must put together a waste management plan. We must determine the content, funding strategies and mechanisms and put them in place. There are huge issues in terms of how to deal with it. There are local and national implications connected to incineration, landfill, thermal treatment, recycling and reduction. It is high time to have a debate as we have not had a proper one on this issue.
Mr. Lanigan: I have asked on numerous occasions to have a debate on the operation of a body, the people who deal with planning, which  has major implications for the country. Over the past weeks and months there have been major problems regarding planning but they have still not been addressed. We should have a full debate on the implications of decisions in this area, whether at local authority or a higher level. I will not go into details but there are serious implications. It goes back to what Senator O'Toole said in that we must have a full debate on planning in general.
Mr. Coghlan: Like other Senators, I too, have concerns on the taking of Committee and Remaining Stages of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 2000, today. This Bill should be allowed to go back to a committee so that all the interest groups would be properly heard. There are genuine and serious concerns by many people, ranging from the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association through to small shopkeepers and, not least, the publicans.
Mr. Norris: I do not agree with taking Committee and Remaining Stages of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 2000, and I formally propose an amendment to the Order of Business in that regard because it is rather dangerous. It is obvious publicans are a powerful lobby. I heard them talking on the radio recently about extractor fans being required to be introduced and they want the taxpayer to pay for them – the poor little things. They have no money apparently, yet pubs are changing hands for millions of pounds. I do not think we should give in to this lobby. There should be a proper democratic discussion on the issue. It affects the health of young people and we are entitled to have the Bill carried over two days.
There was a very good debate yesterday, which was inadequately reported, about the question of libel laws. A statement was made on the other side of the House that a report appeared in a newspaper saying that 50% of people taking libel action were politicians. I rubbished that. I said it was unbelievable and it was a lie. I have since talked with the reporter from the Irish Examiner who wrote the article which was referred to and he did not maintain that 50% of the litigants were politicians. He said that at one stage 50% of the Cabinet at a particular time were engaged in libel litigation. I wish to clarify that as I do not wish it to be thought on a later reading of the Official Report that I called this excellent young reporter a liar.
Mr. Farrell: I support Senator Lanigan's call for a debate on planning as there is something radically wrong in that area. I have it in black and white where a man who applied for planning permission was granted—
Mr. Farrell: —it by the council. There was one objector. A senior inspector from An Bord Pleanála agreed with the county council that he should get planning permission, yet it was refused. If An Bord Pleanála overrules its senior inspectors – it is here in black and white in the inspector's report – there is something wrong.
Mr. Coogan: Senators Lanigan and Farrell sought a debate on planning. One of the most substantial Bills on planning has just gone through the House after one of the longest debates. There was an opportunity then to discuss issues, an opportunity which still exists because it is in Committee Stage in the Dáil. There will be time for Senators to add to the Bill before it is completed.
I support Senator Costello's call for a debate on incineration, gasification and waste management in general. I have been asking for this debate for some time. The Leader should consider the fact that at this stage many local authorities are examining the issues and we should inform them of the safety measures involved. We wish the Minister to come before the House to explain to us, given his expertise, what is involved and to let us know if there is a threat to people's health from dioxins, etc. I ask the Leader to support our request for the Minister to come to the House.
Mr. Burke: I welcome the publication of the local government Bill. As it is significant legislation, will the Leader tell me when it is proposed to be taken and in which House it will be initiated? The Bill should be sent to all members of local authorities.
Mr. Burke: We should ensure it is sent to all local authorities and is given wide-ranging debate by them. As it is significant legislation this might help Members of the Oireachtas when making final decisions.
Mr. Bonner: I agree with what Senators Lanigan and Farrell said on planning and An Bord Pleanála because I had a similar situation as Senator Farrell, where the board overruled its senior inspectors. I refer to the issue raised here yesterday and I welcome the agreement on Northern Ireland. I welcome the announcement  by the Chief Constable in the past few days that a number of military installations, such as that in Crossmaglen, are to be removed. I hope this will bring back normality to the areas where the installations were imposed on people for more than 30 years.
When the Minister comes to the House for the Northern Ireland debate, will the Leader update us on the situation and on the request by our Government and the Human Rights Association in the North for an independent public inquiry into the issue of the murder of Mr. Pat Finucane and the cases of Ms Rosemary Nelson and Mr. Robert Hamill?
Mr. Cassidy: Senators Manning, O'Toole, Costello, Coghlan, Norris and Ross expressed concerns on the taking of Committee and Remaining Stages of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 2000, today. I suggest that progress on the Bill can be reviewed by the Whips and the leaders during the day to ascertain if time is required. On Senator Manning's motion last night, I propose that it be taken in Government time next week. I extend the same to the Labour Party the following week. If it is not concluded, perhaps the Labour Party will consider the position for the following week. It is well worthwhile and I congratulate those who made contributions last night and look forward to wide-ranging contributions over the coming weeks.
I am pleased to inform the House that the leaders have agreed with the proposal yesterday morning and a motion will be before the House in the names of the leaders of the House regarding funding of political parties and public life in general.
Senators O'Toole and Costello called for a debate on the present position in which everyone finds themselves regarding housing policy and plans. I do not have a difficulty with that and will certainly have time allowed for it. I note there are 50,000 houses in the Government's plan between the private sector and local authorities. Over the next ten years that is 500,000 houses, practically one new house for one in every eight in the country. That target is a magnificent performance which I hope can be achieved.
Senators Costello and Coogan called for a debate on waste management. I have no difficulty allowing time for such a debate. Senators Lanigan, Farrell, Coogan and Bonner called for a debate on the Planning Bill, in particular matters relating to An Bord Pleanála. I will allow time for such a debate before the Bill returns to the House.
Senator Paddy Burke expressed his delight at the publication of the Local Government Bill. He  has been calling for that for some time. The Local Government Bill will be initiated in the Dáil and I understand the Minister has extended a hand of welcome to the local associations concerned, the General Council of County Councils, LAMA and the Municipal Authority Council, to put their views on this matter to him. He is keeping an open mind regarding proposed amendments which might divert power to the local authorities and local members.
Senator Bonner asked when it is proposed to have a debate on Northern Ireland. I discussed this matter with the Whips following the Order of Business yesterday and such a debate will be taken at the earliest opportunity.
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