Order of Business.

Wednesday, 29 January 2003

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 171 No. 1

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Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The Order of Business is No. 2, a sessional order agreed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges; No. 3, motion to refer to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights for discussion a Council directive on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of effort between member states in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof; No. 4, motion referring to the Joint Committee on Education and Science for discussion a draft order concerning the establishment of a State examinations commission, which will be given responsibility for the operation of the examinations specified in Schedule 2 of the Act; No. 5, Immigration Bill 2002 – Committee Stage (Resumed); and No. 13, motions Nos. 22 and 24, to be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  I seek clarification that Nos. 2, 3 and 4 will be taken without debate.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  That is correct.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I ask the Leader to arrange for a debate in this House concerning the ongoing situation in Iraq, particularly in light of last night's speech, which I heard in full, by President Bush to the US Congress. It is important that the Government put on record its response to that very detailed speech. It is also important that a debate take place in this House. I suspect there are many views among Members on all sides concerning the likely aggression by the United States of America and its allies against Iraq. Such a debate would be important, given the creeping anti-Americanism that is taking hold here. This does not serve the country well and it does not serve international affairs well. The Government should set out its response to these matters in the House at some point either tomorrow or early next week.

I ask the Leader and the Government Chief Whip to facilitate Opposition Members concerning a timetable of legislation. In the other House the Government Chief Whip sets out a timetable outlining the Bills that will be brought forward in each session. As the Leader is aware, we welcome Government Bills that are introduced in the House. However, it is important [7]for spokespersons on both sides of the House to know in advance when such Bills will be taken so that appropriate amendments can be tabled. I welcome the considerable time set aside to debate the Immigration Bill and in that regard, the Order of Business, as set out, has my support.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  It is important to remind ourselves how world views can change so rapidly. This is germane to the points just made by Senator Brian Hayes. Innocuous as it may seem, one of the papers laid before the House and listed on today's Order Paper might remind us of distant events which occurred all of nine months ago. It contains names about which we no longer hear now that President Bush has decided to focus his attention on another part of the world. The paper in question, No. 33, relates to the prohibition of financial transfers to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the Taliban of Afghanistan. Senators will remember those people. They were main players on the world stage a short time ago. They were the people that were going to threaten the security of the world. They are no longer convenient and we are now looking at somewhere else in the world. That is another reason the points raised by Senator Hayes should be addressed. There needs to be some sense of logic to what we are doing.

Before the recess I made reference to crime, especially in the city of Limerick, and highlighted the fact that the particularly horrific murder of a security guard should have been afforded the same level of importance as the shooting of Veronica Guerin in Dublin. This is opening the floodgates for those who believe they are above and beyond the law, who can do as they wish and who can take life at a whim. Everything we have seen has proven that point. It is not my intention to make a political point. Yesterday, I listened to a radio interview with Limerick's chief superintendent. He was one of the most impressive speakers on that issue I have heard for a long time and he knew what he was doing.

We should give a clear signal to the people of Limerick and other places that this is an issue of national concern and importance. For most Members the question is not whether the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Dea, was asked for resources, but whether enough is being done or if further action is needed to prevent the problem spreading around the country. Violent crime, by which I mean murder, has increased to levels beyond our worst expectations.

I wish to correct an inadvertent error I made on the final day of the last session when I neglected to offer my thanks to the Leader and Deputy Leader of the House for their extraordinary work during the session. Having looked back at the record, I am embarrassed by my failure to do so.

[8]

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I was half hoping Senator O'Toole would announce the initiation of a libel case against the author of a piece in The Irish Times who described him as “that reliable Government supporter”.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I am taking steps to deal with the issue.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  It is payback time.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I had anticipated at least a libel case being taken as it is a grossly libellous description.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  Fianna Fáil is entertaining whether it will be a—

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Senator Ryan on the Order of Business.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I do business with Governments, which is all I can do.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  We all do business with Governments, but some of us know what we do and do not support.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  The Senator knows how to get money from the Government.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I benefit from Senator O'Toole's efforts as much as anybody else. I apologise, a Chathaoirligh. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that we devote the first two hours of today's business to a debate on the Government's decision to allow the use of Shannon Airport for the transit of US munitions to the Middle East. The country is in a state of confusion as to the public position on the matter. Until last week it was one of “denial, denial, denial”, yet suddenly it has changed to one of “permission, permission, permission”, which is not coherent.

In the context of Iraq, will the Leader find out the reason the Containment of Nuclear Weapons Bill 2000, which was passed in this House nearly three years ago, has still not passed through the other House? Given current concerns about weapons of mass destruction, the least we could do is meet our international obligations by passing the legislation. This House did its job. Perhaps the Leader will find out the reason legislation we all agreed was good has not been passed in the other House.

I draw the attention of the House to a topic close to the heart of Senator Quinn, namely, the 22 reports or statements of accounts on today's Order Paper. With one exception, which covers the period ending August 1999, all the statements of accounts are for 2001. Will the Leader raise with the Government the need to change the ethos of public bodies to require them to report within an appropriate timeframe in order that their reports remain relevant to current conditions? The reports in question are a year, [9]if not 18 months, out of date, which is not good enough.

I fully share Senator O'Toole's concerns about crime. While I do not usually raise the issue of crime to avoid scares, it is clear that the level of organised, violent crime in various parts of the country, in particular in this city and Limerick, deserves immediate attention. It is a matter of regret that concerns about the status of Connacht rugby are to be debated when the House does not have time to debate the appalling crime problem.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  I support the call by Senator Hayes for the House to debate the situation in Iraq and express its concern that the United States might act unilaterally without the backing of a UN resolution. The difficulties elsewhere in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and Palestine, should be included in such a debate. With the election of a new government in Israel, it is hoped progress can be made to reach a settlement which will end the slaughter on both sides.

The Fischler proposals on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy are another important matter. They will have a profound effect if they go through in the form they were published. It is important that the House should debate this issue because it has implications beyond the farm gate in terms of employment and the prospects of the meat processing and dairy industries, about which we need to be conscious. It would be appropriate that the House should give serious attention to this issue.

Ms Terry: Information on Sheila Terry  Zoom on Sheila Terry  I also call on the Leader to ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House for a debate on crime, which has been highlighted by recent events in Limerick. I refer to the call by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors for more help. The association stated crime was almost out of control and unless its members received the necessary assistance, the situation would get worse. When will the Minister provide the extra 2,000 gardaí promised prior to the general election as they are badly needed?

There have been a number of incidents recently involving taxi drivers. This is a serious and worrying issue for women and young girls, in particular, who must travel in taxis at night and rely on them as a safe means of transport. However, many taxi drivers are not upstanding members of the community and a regulator should be appointed to monitor the industry. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Transport to come to the House to discuss this issue?

Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Will the Leader request the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House to update us on the position on the many missing persons in the State? I have raised this matter on several occasions and was prompted to do so again when [10]I heard a new group had been established by the sister of the one of the missing persons. It is known as the Jo Jo Dollard Memorial Trust Fund. She was a young woman from Kilkenny who disappeared a number of years ago and nothing more was heard about her. There have been many other cases and a great deal of hurt, suffering, trauma and uncertainty has resulted. It is important for us to support these family groups.

A debate in the House could lead us to refocus on the issues involved because the public also has a role to play. We should not write off missing persons as statistics. We must revisit these cases and the Minister could help to bring us up to date on them.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I seek clarification. If I understood the Leader correctly, she said we would take both Nos. 22 and 24 in Private Members' time. Is that correct?

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  There are two motions regarding the IRFU, Nos. 22 and 24.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Are we taking one motion or the other, or is one an amendment of the other?

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  One is an agreed position. That is the best way to put it. We agree with the motion tabled by Fine Gael.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Which motion is being taken?

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  We are taking the Fine Gael motion. We will respond according to the sentiments expressed in our motion.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I only ask because I was not quite sure whether it was intended to be taken as an amendment. I take it that it is not an amendment?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  No.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  It is an agreed position.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  We will be discussing No.22—

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  On a point of order, apart from congratulating the Leader on looking as smart as I have seen her for a long period, let us be clear about one thing, namely, there can be only one motion before the House at any given time. On Committee Stage of a Bill, issues that are different but similar can sometimes be discussed with the agreement of the House. I understand we are debating the Fine Gael motion, though Fianna Fáil Members may want to agree with it. Other Members may have different views, but we should be clear about what we are doing tonight and ask Fianna Fáil to support the Fine Gael motion.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  It is No. 22.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am in possession.

[11]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  The Senator is in possession, but he asked for clarification—

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  And I am grateful for it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  —which generated some discussion. I will return to Senator Norris when the matter has been clarified.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I welcome the assistance offered by a number of veteran Senators on this issue. Regarding Nos. 22 and 24, is the Leader stating that the Government motion is being taken in our time? This would be—

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  No.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  That is what she is saying, in effect.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  There is only one motion.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I understand it to be breaking new ground.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  No, there is only one motion, No. 22, being taken. That should clarify the situation.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  On a point of clarification, our Members will speak on the sentiments expressed in the motion.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I welcome the clarification. The fact that Fine Gael has chosen this issue for Private Members' Business clearly indicates why that party is in Opposition. We are on the verge of what could be a world war, but both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil feel that events involving rugby in Connacht are most worthy of discussion. I completely disagree. If one considers the way the two principal parties have treated Private Members' Business, it is about time they surrendered their rights in this area to the Independent group, which treats it seriously. The Government and Fine Gael deal with all kinds of extraneous matters and rubbish in their Private Members' time. That shows it is not taken seriously.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business in the spirit of what has been said. Senator Brian Hayes referred to United States aggression against Iraq and he is perfectly correct to do so. Why did he then proceed to talk about creeping anti-Americanism? It is perfectly reasonable to be against aggression. I am against aggression—

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Does the Senator have an amendment?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that No. 23 be taken first. Independent Members take their politics seriously and this motion addresses the issue of Shannon refuelling.

[12]Even if it has escaped the attention of the two major parties, there are serious matters which can be considered. For example, the difficulties in which the country has been landed as a result of the legislation on compensation for victims of child sex abuse. This is now going to present taxpayers with a potentially enormous bill and, as a taxpayer, I do not see why we should be obliged to pay it. I could argue that due to the operation of criminal law in Ireland I was abused by the authorities. I had my youth taken away, but I am not looking for compensation. If the bill amounts to €1.52 billion, then taxpayers will be very annoyed with those who allowed it to happen.

Crime has been mentioned and, in particular, the situation in Limerick. It was stated authoritatively on the radio this morning that many of the guns being used by crime families in that city come from republican paramilitaries. That is a matter the organs of State ought to address and we should be discussing.

There is a young man in Blackrock operating a free-for-all at weekends where for €40 for men and €25 for women people can drink themselves absolutely stupid. This flies in the face of the policy enunciated by the Oireachtas.

There is also the question of Ryanair stealing money from its clients to the tune of €29 million in the last year.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  The Senator has been allowed a lot of latitude and covered a lot of matters.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  You are extremely kind, a Chathaoirligh, and I really do appreciate it.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  Will the Leader provide time for a debate on the issue of people with learning disabilities, what used to be called mental handicap? I ask for this debate in the light of the independent report commissioned by the St. John of God Brothers on St. Mary's Home, Drumcar, County Louth. Such a debate could help us examine our attitude, as a people, to the care of the most vulnerable in our society.

I support the call by a number of Senators for a debate on the impending war in Iraq and suggest that the situation in the Middle East as a whole could be discussed. As Senator Brian Hayes said, it is possible to hold differing views and be pro-American but anti-war. We should have the opportunity to express our views on this very important issue.

Ms O'Meara: Information on Kathleen O'Meara  Zoom on Kathleen O'Meara  I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by my colleague, Senator Ryan, which relates to the need for a debate on the use of Shannon Airport by US troops as part of the military build-up in the Middle East.

Will the Leader of the House ask the relevant Minister if, in the light of the court judgment in the Rundle case yesterday, he is now looking at a potential review of the Residential Institutions [13]Redress Act? In the light of the potential massive exposure now possible as a result of the judgment, does the Minister consider the board now has a function? In seeking clarification on the matter I ask whether legislation will be forthcoming. The exceptional courage of the individual who took the case should be acknowledged.

Mr. O'Brien: Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  I ask the Leader to raise with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, an intrusion by British army helicopters during an Ulster GAA fixture last Sunday between Armagh and Monaghan at the Crossmaglen Rangers GAA grounds, Crossmaglen. I was at the match and three helicopters hovered over the pitch, landing and taking off again at the army base. The noise of the aircraft was deafening and a great annoyance to the players and the large attendance present at the game. I ask the Leader to convey my concerns to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs without delay. I am convinced that the peace process will only work when there is an end to all military activities, particularly in the south Armagh area, and people can go about their daily activities in a normal way.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  I strongly support Senator Brian Hayes's call for a debate on the situation in Iraq. In common with other Senators, I ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House. I am particularly concerned about the huge unevenness and wide variation in the handling of cases relating to child pornography and the downloading of material from the Internet. It is to be noted that a distinguished and learned District Court judge recently refused jurisdiction. I would like to hear the opinion of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on which court is the most appropriate to hear such cases. Some judges are acting as though they are patrons of various societies. No matter how meritorious, I wonder what is the basis in law for such huge sums being made available to admittedly worthy charities. I would like the Leader to arrange for the Minister to come before us and outline where he sees this going in the future.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I second Senator Norris's amendment to the Order of Business on Iraq. The issue of scripts was raised in the other House and I would be interested in a ruling on it. I noted that in the last session there was an extraordinarily malign tendency for scripts to be read by Members throughout all debates. It is a particularly bad trend in this House. There is a case, however, for certain people being confined to scripts. Senator O'Toole and perhaps Senator Norris would benefit from being scripted on all occasions.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  No conscription here.

[14]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  We will deal with the matter when the Senator raises it at a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Thank you.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The Senator is not supposed to mention absent-minded Members.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Senator Ross, without interruption.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  It is a serious point. There is little point in having a debating chamber if Members will come in and read scripts written for them by their press office.

In agreement with many Members of this House, I am somewhat disappointed with the Order of Business for today and tomorrow. As Senator Norris rightly stated, there are matters of enormous public importance being omitted from debates in this House which will make us less than relevant. I would particularly like a promise from the Leader of the House that if and when the pay deal is finally agreed—

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  The national agreement.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  —whatever Senator O'Toole calls it, because it will be whatever he calls it – we, in this House, should be the first to debate it. These pay deals are made outside this House and the Dáil. They are not even debated within parliamentary parties, yet I gather we are beneficiaries of them. I gather that last night the sticking point was that, for the third time, members of the public service were being asked to increase so-called productivity in return for the exorbitant benchmarking payment and that for the third time, the issue will be fudged. For the third time, they will not increase productivity. They are refusing to do so and will run rings around the Government, as Senator O'Toole always does.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  The House is being misled at this point.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Let me ask this then. Let me make this final point, a Chathaoirligh, and then I will sit down.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  How much is it?

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  If productivity is going to be the issue—

A Senator:  Let us start in this House.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Hear, hear.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  We are not debating the matter now.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Nobody has asked me what I am going to produce for the extra 18% I am getting. [15]The answer is I am not going to produce anything extra.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I am going to produce exactly the same as I have always done.

(Interruptions).

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  We do not want to discuss the detail on the Order of Business. The Senator can reserve this for the debate, if he is seeking one.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Sorry, a Chathaoirligh, I cannot hear you because the Clerk is talking in your ear and drowning out your voice.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  I find it hard to hear the Clerk and I am surprised that the Senator can hear her.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Perhaps we could have a serious debate on the pay deal at a very early stage and see that this House and the Dáil are not bypassed and ignored on a most serious economic issue before the country.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  On a point of order—

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  This will not be a point of order. I can tell you in advance, a Chathaoirligh.

(Interruptions).

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  That is his productivity. He is like a prophet. He knows what the Senator is going to say.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  I will decide if it is a point of order.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I will write it out.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  This is the way in which public representatives get a bad name. Every Member of this House filled a form. Every Member of this House was compared and benchmarked against parliamentarians in other countries.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Is this a point of order?

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  Let the record show.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Order, please. I call Senator Feighan.

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  That is hard to follow. As I understand the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources or his representative will be coming in to the House today, I pose the following question: why is €13 million being given to An Post? I believe this money is being used to [16]intimidate and coerce rural postmasters and postmistresses into retiring from sub-post offices.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Is the Senator seeking a debate?

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Yes. I want a reply to my question. This will be introduced on an agency basis—

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  The matter is being debated on the Adjournment.

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  I cannot speak on it tonight—

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Senator Mansergh is raising the issue.

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  —and that is the question I want the Minister to answer. Under the agency model, post offices will only be required to open one day each week in order to provide the minimum service of selling stamps and paying out pensions.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  The issue does not arise now. There is nothing to stop the Senator raising the matter on the Adjournment or seeking a debate on it.

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Will the Cathaoirleach allow me to raise it tonight on the Adjournment?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  No, I have selected the matter for debate tonight.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  It is being raised tonight in another Senator's name.

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Yes, but the issue I have raised will not be addressed tonight.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  The matters for discussion tonight have already been selected.

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Then I can raise it on the Order of Business and that is what I am doing.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Is the Senator seeking a debate on the matter?

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  I am seeking an answer.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  The Senator cannot get an answer now.

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  It would be reasonable to get an answer from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources or his representative tonight.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  The matter on the Adjournment is being raised by Senator Mansergh. It is Senator Mansergh's privilege to raise a matter on the Adjournment and he has raised that matter for tonight's debate. Senator Feighan has the same privilege. If he wishes to raise a matter he [17]can give notice at the appropriate time to the Clerk of the Seanad.

Mr. Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Will Senator Mansergh allow me to join the debate?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  That is not a matter for Senator Mansergh.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  Does the Cathaoirleach intend to amend Standing Orders to allow Members of the same group to shout at each other on the Order of Business?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  I do my best to prevent it happening.

Dr. Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  I support the call for a debate, at the appropriate moment, on what I hope will be a social partnership agreement. The word “productivity” has been mentioned. The productivity of this country has been fantastic under the national agreements of the past 15 years; we never saw its like before. Earlier today, I heard some union representatives express reservations about the agreement on the radio. I hope a comprehensive conclusion will be reached involving all parties and I encourage the Government and the social partners in that regard. I congratulate the president of ICTU, Senator O'Toole, on his role in the process. I hope there will be an agreement. Far from being a denial or bypassing of democracy, the process is an amplification of it. My definition of democracy is maximum popular participation in the government of the country and social partnership contributes to that.

Mr. Browne: Information on Feargal Browne  Zoom on Feargal Browne  Will the Leader request the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to come before the House to explain why the allocation for non-national roads was based on 1996 census figures and not on the most up to date figures, thereby short-changing many local authorities?

Mr. Hanafin: Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  I support the call for a debate on Iraq. It is a simple matter to call on Iraq to fulfil the United Nations obligations. The weapons are there and the reason we know they are there is that, in many cases, the west sold them to Iraq.

I would also welcome a debate on the partnership talks that are taking place at present. The unions and the partnership approach to national agreements have played no small part in the growth and welfare of this country. I wish Senator O'Toole well in his endeavours.

Mr. U. Burke: Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Will the Leader arrange an early debate with the Minister for Education and Science about the situation faced by many communities, parents, boards of management and students? The Minister has confirmed that only 12 national schools out of a total of 840 will be [18]upgraded in the coming year. This is an indication of total disregard for the plight of students at primary level. It is now time for a complete reappraisal. The Minister has given us an indication – and nothing more – of where people stand, after it has been requested for many years. There is total uncertainty among the public and the boards of management as to where or when, if ever, projects will commence.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Is the Senator seeking a debate?

Mr. U. Burke: Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  It is high-handed, selfish and vindictive in the extreme of Senator Norris to rubbish any suggestion of any group that put a motion before the House—

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  The Senator is out of order.

Mr. U. Burke: Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  He has often used the House for his own selfish interests and has done so in a manner—

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Senator Burke is out of order. I call Senator Cummins.

Mr. U. Burke: Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  It is vindictive in the extreme of Senator Norris—

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Senator Burke should resume his seat.

Mr. U. Burke: Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  —and, to a lesser extent, Senator Ryan to advance this opinion.

Mr. Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  I support Senator Terry regarding the obvious lack of Garda resources, particularly in light of the recent unfortunate incident in the Cathaoirleach's home county. This lack of resources is mirrored throughout the country. I ask the Government to honour at least one its promises, namely, that of providing an additional 2,000 gardaí.

I also request that the Minister for Health and Children to come before the House to explain the Government's policy on people with disabilities. There have been major cut-backs in the Department, which are having devastating effects on families of people with disabilities. These people had to take to the streets in order to air their grievances.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Senator Brian Hayes requested a debate on the Iraqi crisis, particularly in light of President Bush's State of the Union address last night and the sentiments it evoked. Senator Hayes referred to a creeping anti-Americanism he sees emerging in this country. I am not anti-American, but neither am I in favour of the war on Iraq. It is easy to equate that disapproval of war with a sentiment against a particular country, but it does not necessarily follow. However, I [19]take on board the Senator's concerns about the need for a debate on the Iraqi situation.

Senator Hayes also made an interesting point about the need for Members to know at least a week in advance – or at the earliest opportunity – what legislation will be dealt with in the House. I agree with him in this regard and I will take this matter further. I have a general idea of all the Bills that are to be presented to the House and of whether they are being initiated here or in the Dáil. It is something I was very insistent upon throughout the last session. We find ourselves faced with a raft of Bills and to obtain the necessary time to debate them will be another matter. However, Members should know about them in good time so that they can prepare for debates.

Senator O'Toole echoed Senator Hayes's comments about the Iraq. A view is being put forward by the American authorities which links al-Qaeda to Iraq. The first we have heard of this has been in the past few days. It is obviously another pretext for the Americans to go to war at a time when they are finding that people in many countries are not in favour of doing so.

Senator O'Toole also referred to crime in Limerick. I also heard the views of Limerick's chief superintendent, who was very open and expert in the way he spoke about the situation. There is a general call for a debate on crime throughout the country, with particular regard to Limerick.

Senator Ryan proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, which was seconded by Senator O'Meara, to debate the situation at Shannon Airport instead of debating the Immigration Bill 2002, which is also very important. The Senator also asked the reason the Dáil had not passed the Containment of Nuclears Weapons Bill. I do not know but can ask. He further asked for a debate on crime and the reports of public bodies. It is a matter of finding time for everything.

Senator Dardis raised the matter of Iraq. He also raised the effect of the proposed implementation of the Fischler proposals.

Senator Terry raised the issue of crime and the need for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House for a debate on the matter. She also stressed the need for the Minister for Transport to tell us about the taxi regulator. I do not accept her comments on taxi drivers. We should not brand all of them in that way.

Ms Terry: Information on Sheila Terry  Zoom on Sheila Terry  I am sorry. That was not intended.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  There are many fine taxi operators which we all use from time to time. I agree, however, that there is a need for a regulator.

Senator Ó Murchú called for a debate on missing persons in order to revive interest in such cases. We will see if it is possible to get the Mini[20]ster for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House for such a debate.

Senator Norris did not approve of the topic for debate selected by the Fine Gael Party for Private Members' time tonight. It is an important issue for many of us and we are proud to debate and agree with it. We think it is important.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It is a case of priorities. There is a war coming.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  We all know that, but we can also have our priorities. Most Members try to give and take with Members of different parties and the Independents. It is unprecedented to rubbish the topic of a Private Members' debate.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  If that was the attitude of both the Government and the Opposition, we could have successfully done so in the last session.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  The Leader, without interruption, please.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Senator Lydon raised the need for a debate on learning disability, particularly in view of the report on the home in Drumcar. He also voiced concern at the prevailing situation with regard to Iraq.

Senator O'Meara asks if there will be a review of theResidential Institutions Redress Act in the light of what has now emerged of the likely cost of judgments under the Act. As far as I understand, there is no indication of a review taking place in the near future.

Senator O'Brien raised the matter of the GAA match in south Armagh which was drowned out by the noise of British army helicopters. This was a very unwelcome intrusion into a wholesome participation in an afternoon's sporting activity. I will bring the matter to the attention of others, as the Senator requested.

Senator Coghlan brought up the matter of Iraq. He also raised the issue of the disparity in sentencing and asked that it be brought to the attention of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  And the question of jurisdiction.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  We will see what the Minister has to say about the matter.

Senator Ross spoke about the malign tendency to read scripts. I am reading this because Senators made their points one by one, but I do not normally read scripts when I speak in the Seanad. It is very easy for us who have had experience, but there are many new Members in the House who are eager to contribute and get their ideas into the Official Report. It will be up to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, but new [21]Members must be allowed to make their way and refer to their notes if they need to do so.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Notes, yes.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  They will all become as expert as, dare I say, I and Senator Ross in time.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Senator O'Rourke anyway.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  The Leader is expert at many things.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Senator Ross called for a debate on two issues; the social partnership agreement—

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  Senator Ross has already made up his mind on it. I do not think he should be allowed to debate it. He has a closed mind on the issue.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Senator O'Toole, please.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  —and benchmarking. In reply from the floor, Senator O'Toole said we had all contributed on benchmarking because we had filled the appropriate forms. Senator Norris asked if he was giving value for money for his—

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I beg the Leader's pardon. Senator Ross is Tweedledum and I am Tweedledee.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Senator Ross wanted to know if he was giving value for money. In my book he is.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I was before also.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Yes. That was well answered by Senator O'Toole who said that we had all filled in the appropriate forms, but he also said Senators Ross and Norris could benefit by being spancelled.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Promises, promises.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  That is my word, not his. Senator Ross wished to know when we could discuss all these matters. I pay tribute to Senator O'Toole who seems to have spent every day since Christmas with his colleagues going in and out of Government Buildings fighting for the workers of this country and the social partners.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  The Leader is reading from the script now.

Senators:  Hear, hear.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I endorse that.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Senator Feighan raised the issue of An Post which has been raised by Senator [22]Mansergh and accepted by the Cathaoirleach for discussion on the Adjournment tonight. Perhaps the Senator could corral the Minister as he leaves the House.

Senator McCarthy asked if he could bring up a motion to debar members of one group arguing with each other on the floor of the House.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  Censorship. It is amazing that the Labour Party should propose it.

Ms O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Senator Mansergh spoke about the social partnership agreement and the undoubted benefit it has brought to the country over many years. Senator Browne wants the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to come to the House to explain the reason the allocation for roads was based on the 1996 census figures. Senator Hanafin called for a debate on Iraq and is also in favour of the current partnership talks. Senator Ulick Burke wants the Minister for Education and Science to come to the House to explain the allocation for primary schools. He also, quite properly, raised the matter of the IRFU.

Senator Cummins brought up the issue of the lack of resources for the Garda and the need for the Government to implement its proposal to recruit 2,000 extra gardaí. He also spoke of the need for the Minister for Health and Children to come and discuss the outlook for people with disabilities.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  There are two amendments with which I will deal in the order in which they were proposed. Amendment No. 1 is in the name of Senator Ryan. Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Yes.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Before continuing I wish to inform the House of an amendment to procedure in regard to voting times. The bells will ring for four minutes and then—

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  On a point of order, No. 2, as I understand it—

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  No. This does not relate to No. 2. A decision was taken by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges of which every Senator was notified that the bells would ring for four minutes and that after a further four minutes the doors would close, giving Senators eight minutes in total.

Amendment put: “That the House debate the Government's decision to allow the use of Shannon Airport for the transit of US munitions to the Middle East.”

[23]

Bradford, Paul.
Browne, Fergal.
Burke, Paddy.
Burke, Ulick.
Coghlan, Paul.
Coonan, Noel.
Cummins, Maurice.
Feighan, Frank.
Finucane, Michael.
Hayes, Brian.
[24]Henry, Mary.
McCarthy, Michael.
Norris, David.
O'Meara, Kathleen.
O'Toole, Joe.
Quinn, Feargal.
Ross, Shane.
Ryan, Brendan.
Terry, Sheila.
Tuffy, Joanna.

Bohan, Eddie.
Brady, Cyprian.
Brennan, Michael.
Callanan, Peter.
Cox, Margaret.
Dardis, John.
Feeney, Geraldine.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Hanafin, John.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kett, Tony.
Leyden, Terry.
Lydon, Don.
MacSharry, Marc.
Mansergh, Martin.
Morrissey, Tom.
Moylan, Pat.
O'Brien, Francis.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Ormonde, Ann.
Phelan, Kieran.
Scanlon, Eamon.
Walsh, Kate.
White, Mary M.
Wilson, Diarmuid.

Amendment declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Amendment No. 2 is in the name of Senator Norris. Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Yes.

Amendment put: “That in respect of No. 13, motion No. 23 be taken before motions Nos. 22 and 24.”

Bradford, Paul.
Browne, Fergal.
Burke, Paddy.
Burke, Ulick.
Coghlan, Paul.
Cummins, Maurice.
Feighan, Frank.
Finucane, Michael.
Hayes, Brian.
Henry, Mary.
McCarthy, Michael.
McHugh, Joe.
Norris, David.
O'Meara, Kathleen.
O'Toole, Joe.
Quinn, Feargal.
Ross, Shane.
Ryan, Brendan.
Terry, Sheila.
Tuffy, Joanna.

Bohan, Eddie.
Brady, Cyprian.
Brennan, Michael.
Callanan, Peter.
Cox, Margaret.
Dardis, John.
Dooley, Timmy.
Feeney, Geraldine.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Hanafin, John.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kett, Tony.
Leyden, Terry.
Lydon, Don.
MacSharry, Marc.
Mansergh, Martin.
Morrissey, Tom.
Moylan, Pat.
O'Brien, Francis.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Ormonde, Ann.
Phelan, Kieran.
Scanlon, Eamon.
Walsh, Kate.
White, Mary M.
Wilson, Diarmuid.

Amendment declared lost.

Order of Business agreed to.


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