Thursday, 28 February 2002
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Manning: I seek clarification from the Chair about the way in which today's business is being ordered. We are dealing with Report Stage of a Bill, but a great deal of the material is new. I am glad the Bill has only three Stages because it has grown exponentially; it almost doubled in size on Committee Stage and has increased by one third on Report Stage. Thank God, we are coming towards the end of it. Will we follow the normal Report Stage procedure where a person can only speak once on each amendment?
Mr. Manning: I asked the Leader yesterday to indicate the legislation he expects to be taken between now and the election. I ask him to be realistic in the assessment he gives today. Does the Leader expect that any new legislation which has not yet been published will be taken? Given that we are sitting two days next week and that we will not sit next Wednesday, will he ensure that the normal rights for Private Members' business are maintained?
Will the Leader urgently bring the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the House because of the concern that has arisen regarding an Adjournment Debate matter last night? This is the question of passports for sale. The Minister—
An Cathaoirleach: I ask the Senator to bear with me for a moment. There is a long-standing convention that matters which are raised on the Adjournment cannot be debated again on the Order of Business the following day. Therefore, I cannot allow a debate on this matter this morning.
Mr. Quinn: I accept direction from the Cathaoirleach on this, but I would like the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come into this House to discuss issues that we have not had the opportunity to discuss so as to hear his views. Four years ago today, he made statements that were not in line with what he subsequently did.
Mr. Costello: Not having raised the matter on the Adjournment, I fully support Senator Quinn's call for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come into the House to address this issue.
Has the Government gone to cloud cuckooland? It has decided to co-host the 2008 European Championships when there is no second stadium, the junior partner is opposed to the construction of one and the GAA has voted not to support other games being played in its stadia. The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs stated that social welfare recipients will have all the money they can spend by 2007, while the Minister for Health and Children says that we will have state-of-the-art facilities in the health service by 2010.
Mr. Norris: In light of previous contributions, will the Leader ask the Minister for Justice,  Equality and Law Reform to reduce the price of passports and make them available to asylum seekers at cost, which would be only fair?
On the question of the European football championships, the taxpayers have a clear interest. During the debates on university legislation, there was a strong demand that the Government appoint members to represent the taxpayers on the boards of our institutions and that was supported. The taxpayers paid for Croke Park and ought to have representation there to express the people's will.
Mr. Norris: I strongly ask the Leader to make representations on the matter of East Timor, which we debated before. The Seanad played a significant role in this matter and it welcomes the announcement that an ambassador is to be appointed there. However, it will be a non-resident ambassador. America, Britain and Australia, which were complicit in Indonesia's invasion and destruction of East Timor, have opened resident embassies. The Leader must make strong representations to the Minister for Foreign Affairs at least to upgrade the existing mission there to a diplomatic one. This country has a strong and unusual interest in East Timor and played a remarkable role there. Let us walk the last mile with the people of East Timor and appoint a resident ambassador. A titular one is of no use. We must make a further diplomatic effort.
Mr. Farrell: I wish luck to Donal Kelly, who is retiring. He was a friendly and honest political correspondent whom we all respected and who respected us. I wish him and his wife every happiness in his retirement.
Mr. Farrell: I also congratulate Bríd Rodgers on winning the award of Northern Ireland politician of the year, which I heard on the radio this morning. It is good that she won, not because she is a woman but because of what she achieved.
Mr. Farrell: May we have a debate on motor insurance and the compensation culture, which is a serious matter? Figures in a recent report suggest that insurance companies lose money only on 17 and 18 year olds, while they make a profit from every other age group.
Mr. Coghlan: However, I add my voice to those calling for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to this House so we can hear the Government's plans regarding qualifications for citizenship.
Ms Keogh: In the event of next week's referendum being defeated, will the Leader invite the Minister for Health and Children here to explain the measures he will put in place to help the more than 7,000 women per year who travel to the UK to procure an abortion? Statistics released today indicate that the number is rising. What immediate steps will the Minister take to assist people in this predicament?
Ms Leonard: It is important to note that the referendum is only one of the measures which the Government is putting in place. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency, legislation for which was passed in this House, has been set up.
Mr. Cassidy: I associate myself with the congratulations to a former Member, the Northern Minister, Bríd Rodgers, on becoming the Northern Ireland politician of the year. It is a richly deserved, great honour. We send her our best wishes.
Senators Manning, Quinn and Costello inquired about forthcoming legislation and I will give this information at the end of my replies. I will pass the views of Senators Quinn, Norris and Coghlan to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Senators Costello and Norris expressed views on the co-hosting of the European championship. Anyone involved in sport knows that there are two fabulous stadia in Ireland, Croke Park and Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Mr. Cassidy: They have all the accommodation needs as well as air and rail travel. The Gaelic Athletic Association of Ireland, with its voluntary membership – I was proud to wear the county jersey – put Croke Park where it is today. Any Government funding it received was richly deserved because of the commitment of those volunteers—
Senator Costello called for a debate on the achievements of the Government and the implementation of 85% of the Fianna Fáil manifesto. I do not have a difficulty with that. It is wonderful to acknowledge, as Leader of the House and as a Westmeath man, the new project team for St. Mary's Hospital in Mullingar. Over €20 million more will be spent by the Government.
Mr. Cassidy: Senator Norris expressed his continued support for the people of East Timor. To be fair to him, he and all other Senators have continued to highlight the difficulties in East Timor. I will pass on the Senator's views to the Minister and I strongly endorse most of his contribution on that issue.
The proposed legislation to be taken in the House between now and the general election includes the Civil Defence Bill, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill, 2001, the Road Traffic Bill, 2001, the Residential Institutions Redress Bill, the Finance Bill, the Public Health (Tobacco) Bill, the Arramara Teoranta (Acquisition of Shares) Bill, 2001, the Courts and Court Officers Bill and the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.
Two Bills are not yet published, one of which is the Electoral Bill. Senator Manning requested that I inform the House this morning about Bills we expect to be published. As the Senator is aware, the Electoral (Amendment) (Deposits) Bill will be published and brought before the House before the general election. I will inform the House about one other Bill when I have more information on it.
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