Thursday, 13 December 2001
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Cassidy: The Order of Business is No. 1, Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001 – Report and Final Stages; No. 2, motion re Information to Voters, to be taken without debate as it was debated in conjunction with Second Stage of the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001; No. 3, Family Support Agency Bill, 2001 – Committee and Remaining Stages; No. 4, Air Navigation and Transport (Indemnities) Bill, 2001 – Second Stage, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed ten minutes and on which Senators may share time, with Committee and Remaining Stages of this Bill to be taken at the conclusion of No. 5; and No. 5, Extradition (European Union Conventions) Bill, 2001 – Committee and Remaining Stages. Business will be interrupted from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Mr. Manning: The vote on today's Order of Business took place yesterday and the House has agreed to it, therefore I, as a good democrat, will not make any objection to it. I note that the Seanad speeches of W.B. Yeats have just been published. We should have a debate on that in  the next session as he was one of our most distinguished Senators and his speeches still read very well. As a Member elected to the cultural and education panel, I feel that such a debate would be appropriate.
Mr. O'Toole: Is it necessary to take No. 4 today? Yesterday we said that the business tabled could not be concluded and that was proven to be the case. I ask the Leader to indicate why it is necessary to take the Air Navigation and Transport (Indemnities) Bill, 2001. It puts additional pressure on business and takes the symmetry away from the day. Unless it is absolutely necessary, the Bill should not be taken today. The business will be impossible to conduct because of Ministers' commitments and we will have the same difficulty as we had last night with them waiting for their Cabinet colleagues to finish. It gives a very bad impression of the way business is ordered in this House. I do not have any objection to the Bill being taken, but only if it must be.
Yesterday I asked for a debate on Northern Ireland and in the middle of the afternoon the report on the Omagh bombing by the Northern Ireland police ombudsman came out. That is another reason for us to address this issue. We, as elected parliamentarians, have a duty to instil in people a confidence in the Police Service of Northern Ireland. If we lack conviction ourselves, as we certainly do after the killing of Mr. Stobie and the publication of the report, we must address the issues here in order to satisfy ourselves that we can have confidence and trust in the system. We should and can have that. We should debate this in a non-partisan way as everybody in the House surely has the same sense of duty and loyalty to the country, North and South. We need to ensure that we know the answers to questions about the police service and that we can tell people what is involved. If people are at fault we should single them out from the rest of the police. We also need to call for an independent inquiry on the Pat Finucane case. Many issues are building up in that regard and I ask the Leader to prioritise them.
Mr. Costello: I opposed the Order of Business yesterday and put it to a vote on the basis that far too many items were on the agenda. We could not possibly deal with them in a decent period of time. It is unfair to Senators and staff that we should sit until almost 4 a.m. Many people left the building bleary-eyed and are here again today. The Leader of the House should have taken that into consideration and ordered business so that we would not have a heavy day again today. I am quite unhappy with the number of items on the Order of Business.
I too express my concern and request a debate arising from the Northern Ireland police ombudsman's report on the Omagh bombings. It raises very serious questions about investigative procedures, and police co-operation and communication. I link the report to the case of the  Dublin and Monaghan bombings which has been going on for 27 years without a proper inquiry having been established and about which the same questions were raised regarding police co-operation. The trail in that instance ran cold once it reached the Border. These are the two single greatest tragedies in terms of numbers killed that have taken place in the context of the Northern Ireland conflict over the last 30 years. There must be a full-scale investigation into those cases. It is an absolute disgrace that the families and relatives of those who died in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings are still no closer to getting any answers. It is time we addressed that in this House and brought it to the attention of the powers that be, including the relevant Minister. We want action on these matters.
Ms Cox: As we head towards a new session, will the Leader begin the new year with a statement that this House fully supports family-friendly policies? I ask him to have a debate on that in the first week of the new session to give us the opportunity to talk about how men and women can manage to strike a balance between looking after their families and working. We could also look at the things happening in our society that are affecting children and discuss advertising aimed at children, a subject on which I requested a debate a number of weeks ago.
Mrs. Jackman: I was alarmed this morning by a report in The Irish Times which stated that girls were being excluded from what are considered to be traditionally male subjects, such as woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing and construction studies. Senator Quill requested a debate on the number of schools in which students were not taking science subjects. This is an added dimension to such a debate. As a teacher I realise that there is a time-tabling issue involved, but it is time, as schedules are constructed for the next school year, to debate whether or not girls are getting equal access to the traditionally male subjects. We should debate whether there is equality at second level and, in the case of science, at third level. I hope such a debate will be taken in the new year.
Mr. Cassidy: Senator Manning noted the publication of the speeches of W.B. Yeats and we can certainly allow time for statements on that in the new year. The reason I have included No. 4 on the Order of Business today is to allow for amendments. If the House wants to take all Stages when the Bill comes before it, I will have no objection. Senators O'Toole and Costello called for a debate on Northern Ireland and I will endeavour to have the Minister for Foreign Affairs attend this House before the Christmas recess to discuss the police ombudsman's report. We owe it to those who lost their lives and to their nearest and dearest to find out what happened. I will include such a debate on the Order Paper in the coming days.
Senator Cox called for a debate on advertising standards and especially advertisements geared at children. It is a very good proposal and I will include it for debate after the Christmas recess.
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