Wednesday, 11 October 2000
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Cassidy: The Order of Business is Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 19, motion No. 26: No. 1, motion re referral of Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Prescribed Bodies) (No. 3) Regulations, 2000 to the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service to be taken without debate; No. 2, motion re referral of the establishment of the Advisory Centre on World Trade Organisation Law to the Joint Committee on European Affairs to be taken without debate; No. 3, motion re Council Regulation (EC) on the mutual enforcement of judgments on rights of access to children to be taken for one hour following conclusion of Nos. 1 and 2, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and the contributions of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes; No. 4, Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Bill, 2000 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and the contributions of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes. Business to conclude at 8 p.m.
Mr. Manning: I believe the House would like to send its sympathy to the people of Scotland on the death of Donald Dewar early today. He was one of the finest politicians of his generation and  an outstanding First Minister in the new Scottish Assembly. He had many associations with this country and was a very good friend of Ireland. His loss is not just a loss to the people of Scotland but to politics in general. I am sure all Members of the House would like to express their sympathy to the Scottish people.
I am aware the Leader of the House has had difficulties with his new office, as many of us have had, therefore I will not be too hard on him today in asking about proposed legislation. There seems to be a dearth of legislation and perhaps the Leader will indicate tomorrow what legislation he intends to take and over what period during the coming session.
All of us would like to congratulate those who won the seat for Ireland on the Security Council, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs, his predecessors, the Irish Ambassador, Mr. Richard Ryan, and the other members of the diplomatic service who played such an important part in winning this hugely important seat for Ireland.
Mr. Manning: It would be appropriate to have a debate at the earliest opportunity on the future role of the UN, including Ireland's attitude and role in the UN and the major problems which the UN now faces. I suggest that we invite as a distinguished visitor to this House one of our most distinguished former Members, the UN High Commissioner, Mrs. Mary Robinson, to speak to us on UN affairs. I will ask the Leader to consider that proposal.
Many people are filled with disquiet and disgust at the squabbling and bickering surrounding the Irish team at the Olympic Games. There is something seriously wrong with the way in which the affairs of the Irish Olympic Council are being run. This sort of public squabbling has been going on for a very long time and now is the time to call for an end to it. I agree with the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation that every row seems to centre around one person. I would like the Minister to come to this House to tell us what is happening as far as the expenditure of public money is concerned, what the policy is and what future he proposes, given that we are four years away from the next Olympics.
It would be wrong to pass today's Order of Business without referring to the extraordinary situation which has arisen because of the refusal of a Member of the other House to attend the tribunal set up by both Houses. Will the Leader make time available tomorrow to discuss No. 19, motion No. 4, on the Order Paper? This would give Members an opportunity to debate that issue, including the running of the tribunals.
Mr. O'Toole: I was not aware of the death of Donald Dewar and I concur with what Senator Manning has just said. I knew him very well, not in his capacity as a parliamentarian but because of his involvement in education at European level. He had a great level of commitment and I share the views expressed about him. We should express our condolences on the death of the man who has been described as the father of Scottish democracy. What he stood for is something about which we must be very clear, that is, the positive image of public representatives.
It is appalling that a Member of the Oireachtas is currently refusing to co-operate and is not attending at a tribunal. I do not wish to embarrass you, a Chathaoirligh, in terms of straying from our responsibilities, but Senator Manning referred to No. I9, motion 4, on the Order Paper relating to tribunal procedures. I ask the Leader to include this as a matter for discussion tomorrow. I have made this point on many occasions and I have not been listened to on the issue. I do not think this is a party political matter. I do not want it to become a squabble between one party and another just because the person involved happens to be a member of one party. There are decent people in every party who should be allowed to express their views on this type of issue. This is an embarrassment and unacceptable. At a time when we are looking for proper rewards and compensation for public representatives, this is the last type of thing we wish to see in the media.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to item No. 73 of the papers laid before the House, that is, “A New Era for Sport”– The Irish Sports Council's Strategy, 2000-2002. I suggest we should have a discussion on the issue for the reasons raised by Senator Manning and many other reasons. We had a discussion previously in this House on the Sports Council's earlier strategy paper. That debate highlighted the difficulties being encountered by Irish Olympic qualifiers in getting time to do their work to represent Ireland, including the non co-operation of Government Departments. It is time these issues were put on the record and dealt with in this House. I ask for an early debate on the difficulties being experienced by tribunals and the policy paper on a new era for Irish sport.
Mr. Costello: I, too, on behalf of the Labour Party wish to express our sympathy to the Scottish people on the death of Donald Dewar. I was not aware that he had died today. We will miss him very much, as will the people of Scotland and Great Britain.
I wish to echo what has been said by Senator Manning on the success of the Irish Government and diplomatic service in securing the seat on the United Nations Security Council. This was one of two seats and was won against very stiff opposition. The members did us proud by securing such a high vote and leading the field in the election. As a former Senator, I would like  Mrs. Robinson to come to this House to address it on the role of the United Nations.
I support Senator Manning's proposal, seconded by Senator O'Toole, that we should have an extensive debate tomorrow on the serious issue of a Member of the Oireachtas thumbing his nose at a tribunal which was unanimously established by all parties in the Oireachtas to deal with matters of grave concern to the people. An example should be set by all Oireachtas Members to co-operate fully in regard to the matters before the tribunal. We should be exemplary when called before a tribunal. There should be a full discussion on this at the earliest opportunity. I hope the Leader will oblige us by giving such a commitment.
We have considerable difficulty with Nos. 1 and 2 on the Order Paper. We are unhappy that motions of this nature are brought before the House and the Leader requests us to take them without debate. The motions are substantial. One relates to the Freedom of Information Act, 1997—
Mr. Costello: They should be debated in this House prior to referral to a committee or there should be a commitment that they will be debated when the committee has sent its message to this House. The matters to which the motions refer are of considerable importance as they deal with freedom of information and the advisory centre on World Trade Organisation law.
Mr. Costello: A message must be sent back to the House. We should have an opportunity to debate it when that happens, otherwise the House has no role, good, bad or indifferent, other than to act as a rubber stamp in matters of this nature.
We will oppose the referral of No. 1 in this form unless the Leader gives a commitment to debate it now or when the joint committee sends a message back to the House. The House cannot permit matters of such significance to be referred to a committee without Members having an opportunity to outline what they consider to be important about them.
Mr. Dardis: I join in the tributes to Donald Dewar who was the quintessential Scotsman and who was described as the father of parliamentary democracy in Scotland. It is a mortal blow to the Scottish Parliament, its members and the Scottish people and all of us will grieve about that.
With regard to Nos. 1 and 2 on the Order Paper, I wonder what is the point of empowering committees to undertake certain tasks if we again debate what they have debated. The Oireachtas Joint Committees on Finance and the Public Service and European Affairs are competent and the matters can be debated fully by them. You are aware, a Chathaoirligh, that the Committee Stages of Bills are dealt with by select committees. The large Planning and Development Bill, 1999, was processed that way.
It is important that we join in the congratulations to everybody concerned in securing a seat on the United Nations Security Council, particularly, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, his predecessor, Deputy Andrews, and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, and acknowledge the much wider effort made by our diplomatic service in securing the vote to attain a seat on the Security Council. Ireland will ensure it is used to vindicate human rights, the rights of small nations and the matters to which it has been attentive in the General Assembly over the years. It would be useful, as Senator Manning suggested, if we debated Ireland's role in the UN and how it should use the seat on the Security Council in the near future.
I know, a Chathaoirligh, that you would stop me from intruding into the area of the tribunal but the Taoiseach accurately summed up the matter earlier when he said everybody had a democratic, legal and moral responsibility to attend the tribunal and give evidence. His attitude on the matter is quite explicit.
It would be appropriate for us to discuss sport in general and in doing so to congratulate Sonia O'Sullivan on winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games. It was a marvellous achievement but all our Olympians should be proud that they attained the standard to compete in the Olympic Games. Competing in the Olympics is something to celebrate and that was most evident in the swimming pool where one contestant took much longer than anybody ever before to complete the course but, nevertheless, he completed it.
We must also examine how public funds are spent in this area, the role of the Olympic Council of Ireland, whether the Comptroller and Auditor General has any function with respect to any moneys expended and the question of how elections are undertaken by the OCI. These  matters should come within the scope of the debate and I hope the Minister will be available to come to the House to discuss these and related matters.
Mr. Coghlan: I wish to raise a matter of the utmost seriousness and urgency to many thousands of local communities throughout Ireland. The Tánaiste has been reviewing the groceries order for a considerable time. I do not know whether she will renew or repeal it but large multiples have given a taste of what might happen if the order were abolished. Yesterday's Irish Examiner reported that war has been declared on small shopkeepers and that a store had been singled out. This smacks of a blatant attempt to muscle out the small guys and—
Dr. Haughey: Ireland is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. Given the recent developments at the United Nations and that Ireland is becoming an internationally recognised force, human rights should also be enshrined in our legislation. I ask the Leader to request the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to make a statement in the House on this issue and to give an indication when the convention will be enshrined in our legislation to bring us in line with the rest of Europe.
Mr. Norris: I join my colleagues in congratulating those involved in securing the important position for Ireland at the United Nations. Its importance cannot be exaggerated and it presents an opportunity. We won the draw but we still have to play the game. We are in a good position to do this because our representation there will not be clouded in the same way as that of some of the bigger countries by vested financial interests. This gives us the opportunity to go to the heart of human rights and to ensure that issues such as East Timor and particularly Tibet are addressed.
Tibet has been treated shamefully by the United Nations. It recently held a conference of world religious leaders on peace, but the one person it excluded was his holiness, the Dalai Lama. If Ireland had strong representation, surely it would kick out against such a decision. I support the mooted invitation to the former  distinguished Member of the House, Mrs. Mary Robinson, to address the Seanad. She spoke to the Irish people generally on the radio recently and her comments were informative and useful. Senator Manning referred to the move of offices. This issue should be considered in some form by the House because it was done largely without consultation. The lives of the secretarial staff were made hell on earth. I strongly support the claim for disturbance money because there was disturbance. One of our colleagues in the other House collapsed from the strain. Diaries have been buried so one does not know one's appointments. I do not have a monitor in my room today. The Independents have moved from one basement to another.
Mr. Norris: Is it impossible to imagine that people would have sufficient wit to engage in a small act of mathematical calculation called arithmetic and add together the number of Members of the Seanad with the number of Members of the Dáil and build something that could combine the two instead of its being necessary for us to travel from one basement to another?
Mr. Norris: There are not even enough filing cabinets. I hope this matter is addressed. We depend not only on the planned facilities but also the professional capacity of the staff who work with and for us. It is only fair that they should be properly treated. They should be compensated and I have no difficulty in saying that I support their claim for compensation.
Mr. Norris: I agree with those who called for a debate on sport and particularly the Olympic Games. It is not only the OCI – is anybody surprised given who is running it, an ex-fascist and a friend of Franco? There are gadgets, drug taking and bribes. Appalling things are going on, but the people who are running it even put the Colosseum on the reverse of the medals. They are not capable of telling the difference between Greece and Rome. What do people expect?
Dr. M. Hayes: I do not wish to go over ground that is already well trodden but I wish to be associated with the tribute to Mr. Donald Dewar. He is a great loss to political life on these islands and particularly to the relationships that are developing as a result of the Good Friday Agreement.
I also join in the tributes to the Ministers concerned and the diplomatic services for securing Ireland's place on the Security Council. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to make representations to his counterpart in Israel? Having lived in Northern Ireland for years, I know the great difficulty and danger involved in forming opinions about conflicts from news programmes. However, it appears that inordinate and unnecessary force was used in an urban situation to control conflict there.
Will the Leader ask the Minister for Health and Children to explain to the House why it is necessary for Ireland, a country with a relatively well developed health service, although there is difficulty manning it, to head hunt doctors in India and Pakistan and to rob those poor countries, where the health services are much worse than ours, of valuable medical personnel?
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I join other speakers in complimenting and paying tribute to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, his predecessor, Deputy Andrews, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, the ambassadors, the chargés d'affaires and the honorary consuls throughout the world on securing through their efforts for the past number of years a seat for Ireland on the Security Council of the United Nations. I agree with Senator Manning that a debate on the role of the United Nations would be opportune and I support his call for such a discussion.
This debate should include a discussion on Ireland's diplomatic service throughout the world. It was a unique achievement given that Ireland has the smallest diplomatic service in Europe. This is an opportunity to examine fully how the diplomatic service can be used to greater advantage and the possibility of upgrading some of the chargés d'affaires offices to ambassadorial positions. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to the House for such a commendable debate.
The Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, announced recently that the entire decentralisation programme has been either abandoned or shelved. This is a serious matter, particularly for rural towns. If that is the case and there is a change in Government policy, a debate should take place. I ask the Leader to make time available either tomorrow or next week for such  a discussion. The Minister for Finance should be invited to take part in a full discussion on the Government's decentralisation programme. It has huge implications for towns such as Kilrush and Ennis in County Clare and other towns throughout Ireland. There could be huge fallout from such a decision and there is grave disappointment at the announcement.
Ms Ormonde: I congratulate the Government and the diplomatic corps on securing a seat on the United Nations Security Council. I support the call for a debate on this area. Such a discussion would be timely. It is a great credit to Ireland and shows what can be achieved if minds are focused.
I support Senator Manning's call for a debate on the work of Ireland's sports agencies and how they operated in Sydney. I congratulate Sonia O'Sullivan on the second highest achievement of the silver medal. She is a great credit to Ireland. I also congratulate all the other competitors. It is a pity that we appear to be airing our dirty linen in public. It shows that something is not right in the administrative world of sport. Given the debate in the Lower House last night, I am sure the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation would welcome an opportunity to come to the Seanad and discuss at length where we go from here and how we can prepare for the next Olympic Games.
I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the recent report of the Higher Education Authority regarding third level access. It is disconcerting that a large section of the population is still not represented in third level institutions. We need to consider how best to address the issue of third level access and the policies that are in place with regard to the changing labour market. Such a debate could have an impact on the implementation of future reports. A wider is issue involved. An expert group is considering this problem but the issue lends itself to a long debate in the House. While the Leader has been asked to place many items on his list, perhaps he could include this matter in the future and arrange a long debate on the wider strategy in this area and the implications for third level institutions and the Government.
Dr. Henry: In conjunction with other Members of the House, I met members of the new Scottish Parliament at the meeting of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body earlier this week where they attended as observers. I wish to be associated with Senator Manning's request that our condolences be sent to them on the death of their First Minister. It is a dreadful blow to them.
I congratulate the Minister for Health and Children on two initiatives yesterday. One was the establishment of Breastcheck, the breast screening programme, and the other was a new attack on smoking among teenagers. Like Senator Hayes, however, I would query the initiative of going to the Indian sub-continent to  recruit junior staff, which has been described as only a stop-gap method of solving problems in our hospitals. Perhaps we could debate that matter.
I wish to ask the Leader if we can debate item 60 on the papers laid before the Seanad today, which concerns the 1999 report of the inspector of mental hospitals. This report is extraordinarily important, particularly in view of the slow progress being made with the Mental Treatment Bill in committee. I hope this report can be debated within the next couple of weeks.
Mr. D. Kiely: I join with other Senators who called for a full debate on the future of the Olympic Council of Ireland, with the participation of the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid. I compliment all our athletes who participated in the recent Olympic Games in Sydney. I congratulate Sonia O'Sullivan for bringing honour to the country. There must be a full debate, however, on the future of Olympic sports in this country.
I am also seeking a debate on Bord Gáis in view of the announcement that over £100 million is to be invested in new gas pipeline infrastructure. With that kind of investment being made, we would like to see the gas pipeline being extended to all parts of the country and in particular my constituency in Kerry, which seems to have been overlooked. A full and frank debate is required in the House concerning the future of Bord Gáis.
I ask the Leader of the House for a debate on the atrocities that took place on Bloody Sunday. I am seeking this, in particular, in view of the recent release of tape recordings of the British Army commander in charge and his senior staff, which imply that they were in favour of civilians being killed in Derry on 30 January 1972. A full and open debate on this issue is required in the House. The British Army commanders who were in charge of operations in Derry on that day should be charged and brought before the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague for that type of atrocity. Day after day we support calls for the perpetrators of such atrocities in other countries to be brought before courts or tribunals. This matter should be debated on behalf of the people of our country.
Mr. Ryan: I join in congratulating the achievement of the Government in securing a place for Ireland on the UN Security Council. Perhaps the fact that, of the three candidate countries, we were not members of NATO did us some good. Those who would have bounced us into military alliances should think about that.
I do not wish to refer to issues which are outside the Order of Business, but an issue has arisen which should provoke us into a discussion about how the Houses of the Oireachtas regulate their Members so that they do not behave in a way which brings the Houses into disrepute. How  can we ensure that acceptable standards of behaviour in public life are enforced on Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas? That is a legitimate issue for discussion.
Your rulings, a Chathaoirligh, are usually so succinct and clear that I never have any trouble with them, but I cannot understand how item 2 cannot be discussed since it is a proposal that Seanad Éireann approves the terms of the agreement establishing the advisory centre on World Trade Organisation law. I fully accept that the detail of many of these matters are best discussed in committee but there are principles involved here, as there are on Second Stage of legislation, which deserve to be discussed in some fashion on the floor of the House. While there may be an area of specialisation, anything to do with the World Trade Organisation, as with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, is now politically sensitive material which generates huge passions and divisions. It would be unwise of us not to be aware of these matters and to discuss them. I am a member of the Joint Committee on European Affairs so I am not in the least bit deprived, but item 2 should be debated either now or at the conclusion of the committee's deliberations. The same applies to item 1. I ask the Leader to give a commitment that both matters will be discussed, even for 50 minutes or an hour, at some stage, once the business of the committee has been concluded.
I am surprised that I am the first person to raise this matter but we should discuss the situation in Palestine as a matter of urgency and, in particular, the massacre of more than 80 Palestinians in the past two or three weeks by a country that claims to be part of the democratic world. This issue should be discussed in detail. I share the Government's position but the Houses of the Oireachtas ought to be involved as well.
As I have done for the past two years, I again ask the Leader what is happening to the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill. Before we reassembled after the summer recess, the Dublin City Manager announced that 11 separate telecommunications companies were digging up the streets of the capital. Later today, we will debate a motion about traffic in Dublin. The telecommunications business is contributing its fair share to the traffic chaos in most of our cities.
I am disappointed the block in which most Senators are now accommodated does not have proper wheelchair access. I would have thought that in 2000 that would be the norm. One should not have to raise that matter.
Mr. Lydon: I ask the Leader, once again, if we can have a debate on the enlargement of the European Union. I raise this matter particularly in light of Mr. Romano Prodi's speech to the plenary session of the European Parliament on 3 October. We should include in that debate a discussion, as Senator Haughey has sought, of the draft charter of the fundamental rights of the European Union. The Joint Committee on European Affairs was given to understand that some of the charter's provisions may be repugnant to our Constitution. The debate will be an important one and we should have it prior to the Biarritz summit so that, for once, we can discuss something before it happens rather than afterwards when it has become a fait accompli.
Labhrás Ó Murchú: In recent weeks Ireland has witnessed an appalling tragedy. A young mother, father and two young boys all met with violent deaths. It is no exaggeration to say that the whole nation was shocked, indeed traumatised, by what happened. One can only imagine the pain suffered by the remaining members of that family. It is customary at such a time for the whole community to rally and give sympathy, comfort, consolation and support to the bereaved family. However, one newspaper broke ranks with that tradition and set out to sensationalise this tragedy. It published intimate and private alleged details of the personal relationships within that family. Can anybody imagine the extra suffering and pain that has been placed on that family as a result of such revelations?
I ask the Leader of the House to organise a debate on press accountability. I know the newspaper in question received many letters, some of which were published, from readers disowning what happened, but what about the journalists? Why do they not stand up and be counted? What about the NUJ? Does it accept this derivation from ordinary decency, which no society can accept? I seek this debate as a matter of urgency. As a Members of the Oireachtas and as a citizen, I feel ashamed about what happened. It behoves this House to provide leadership in matters of this kind. Cowardice was involved in that reportage because it would not have been published if those people were alive. It is time for the newspaper to issue an apology and give an undertaking that it will not happen again.
Mr. J. Cregan: On a number of occasions in the previous session I asked the Leader to arrange for a debate, or a discussion by way of statements, on the retention of the groceries order. I support the comments of Senator Coghlan who raised this  matter. As I have said in the past, there will be adverse consequences and implications for small grocery shops. Before the Minister makes any decision on the recent review presented to her, I would ask the Leader to arrange some form of debate so that Members will have an input into the Minister's final decision.
Mr. Glennon: I join previous speakers in calling for a debate on sport and ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, to the House so we can have a full discussion on the matter. It is appropriate that the House should congratulate not only Sonia O'Sullivan on her two magnificent performances and the credit she brought to the country but all athletes who made it to the Olympic Games. It is a phenomenal achievement for any individual and they all deserve our congratulations.
It is regrettable that those congratulations cannot be extended to officialdom, and that is an issue which we must deal with as a matter of urgency. We all speak of the cynicism of young people towards politics and politicians in general. It is regrettable that young athletes share that cynicism towards those involved in sport administration, the “blazers” as they call them. It has got to a stage where we must question our presence at an important event like the Olympic Games if we are unable to provide the appropriate level of preparation and administration which athletes deserve. I look forward to the Minister coming to the House to debate this issue.
An Cathaoirleach: Before the Leader replies I wish to take up a point raised by Senator Ryan concerning No. 2. I point out to the Senator that there is an error in the wording of the motion. It should read, “That the proposal that Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Agreement establishing..”. There is a typographical error and that is the reason for my earlier ruling.
Mr. Cassidy: I wish to be associated with the comments of Senators Manning, O'Toole, Dardis, Maurice Hayes, Costello and Ryan who expressed deep regret at the death of Donald Dewar, a dreadful loss to the people of Scotland.
Some Senators congratulated the Government, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, the former Minister, Deputy Andrews, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, and all the officials who played a significant and successful part in Ireland's bid to gain a seat on the UN Security Council. I wholeheartedly congratulate all involved and I will take up Senator Manning's proposal for an address and statements on the UN. I intend to make a proposal to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges that the European Commissioner, David Byrne, be the next person to be invited to the House and to update us, hopefully, on an annual basis. That would allow us to highlight the  achievements of the Commissioner's and Ireland's work within Europe and to have a question and answer session which has been successful in the past.
Senators Norris, Ormonde, Dan Kiely and Glennon called for a debate on sport in the aftermath of the Olympic Games and on future policy. Some Senators called for a policy paper. I congratulate Sonia O'Sullivan and all who represented Ireland. It is an achievement to be the best in one's parish or one's county. However, to be the best in one's country and to represent Ireland is an exceptional achievement and a tremendous honour. Some expect Irish athletes to be the best in the world. Sonia O'Sullivan has proved time and again that she is one of the greatest female athletes of all time and I wholeheartedly congratulate her. It was wonderful to see her taking two laps of honour in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day. How wonderful it is to see a very successful sportsman in the Gallery. He is a man of his time and none of us has ever seen the likes of his performance in the All-Ireland Hurling Final. Perhaps he is considering becoming a Member.
I spoke to the Minister, Deputy McDaid, in anticipation of the Order of Business and he has agreed that we will forgo Fianna Fáil Private Members' Time next Wednesday. Perhaps the leaders will agree to extend the time by an extra hour so Senators can express their views in the presence of the Minister to assist him in formulating whatever policy he and the Government hope to put together in light of his past experiences.
The House must also offer its congratulations to the RTÉ sports department on its magnificent coverage of the Olympic Games which most agree were the best ever. RTÉ excelled itself and I congratulate those in charge of the sports department and the presenters. They were very professional and once again rose to the challenge. It is a pity other departments in RTÉ do not take a lead from the sports department.
Mr. Cassidy: As regards moving offices and facilities for staff and Members of the Oireachtas, we are doing everything we can. We did not expect this situation and I speak for all leaders in saying we are doing what we can. Hopefully, the situation will ease as the weeks pass and I thank the staff for bearing with the situation under trying and difficult circumstances.
I will consider the calls by Senators Manning and O'Toole for No. 4 on the Order Paper to be taken tomorrow. However, the difficulty remains that the work of the tribunals is ongoing. While I agree with the sentiments expressed by the Senators, the business of tomorrow has been agreed with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment who will be present for the important debate listed on the Order Paper.
 Senators Ryan and Costello spoke about Nos. 1 and 2 on the Order Paper. I have no difficulty with No. 1 returning to the House. The Cathaoirleach rightly clarified the position regarding No. 2. Senators Coghlan and John Cregan called for the retention of the groceries order and for the Minister to ensure that small businesses survive. All Members would agree with this motion and I will pass on their renewed requests to the Minister.
Senators Haughey and Lydon called for human rights to be enshrined in legislation. The Bill will come before the House this session. I will inform the House tomorrow of the 15 Bills which will be considered this session, the first of which is being initiated in the House today.
I will allow time for the debate requested by Senator Ormonde on third level institutions and the policy for change in the market. I will also allow time for a debate on the mental health report as called for by Senator Henry. Senator Dan Kiely called for a debate on Bord Gáis and the £100 million expenditure, part of which he suggested should be spent in County Kerry. The Senator also called for a debate on Bloody Sunday. A judicial inquiry is taking place in another jurisdiction but perhaps we can review the situation over the coming weeks.
I will make inquiries for Senator Ryan about the telecommunications Bill to see what will happen in that regard in this session. Senator Lydon called for a debate on the enlargement of the European Union and I will provide time for this debate.
Senator Ó Murchú expressed serious concern regarding the inappropriate coverage of the tragedy which took place in the south east. I could not agree more with the sentiments he expressed. The more we see such misuse of privilege and appalling abuse of power, the more we should debate the possibilities of setting up a press council. Senator Ó Murchú stated that he would like to know the views of the NUJ in this regard and asked whether it has a role to play in dealing with sensitive issues, whether what happened was in the public interest and whether it should have happened.
|Last Updated: 11/09/2010 00:42:49||Page of 13|