Dáil Éireann - Volume 315 - 26 June, 1979

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Summit Meeting.

[865] 2. Mr. M. O'Leary asked the Taoiseach if he considers the result of the summit meeting to be of positive assistance for the Irish Presidency of the community.

The Taoiseach: After Questions I intend, with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, to make a statement on the outcome of the recent meeting of the European Council in Strasbourg.

Dr. FitzGerald: We are in a difficult, if not to say impossible, position in this matter because we have no copy of the communiqué and, therefore, have not been in a position to prepare ourselves for such a discussion. The Library has no copy. I can find in no newspaper any text of the communiqué—anything other than very indirect references to it—and I do not see how we can debate a communiqué in these circumstances. I would have thought that the courtesy would have been given the Opposition of being sent a copy of the communiqué immediately after it was issued because it makes serious debate impossible when we have not got it. There are quite serious questions that arise from the wording of the communiqué, or from rumours of its wording.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is not usual to have a debate on statements.

Dr. FitzGerald: I am asking the Taoiseach if he will consider letting us have some communiqué and postponing a debate to give us time to read it and consider it.

The Taoiseach: I noticed Deputy L'Estrange said that that was an awful way to treat the House. If that is the way the House is being treated now, it was the way I was treated as well when I was in opposition. But there is, or if not now there will be, a copy of what they call the understanding in the Library for the convenience of Deputies. On each occasion when my predecessor reported on a previous European Summit it was done in exactly the same way that I proposed to do it today, that is, to issue in advance to the Leaders of the Opposition, and indeed [866] to the House, a copy of the statement I propose to make. That will be done and the procedure is not in any way changed from what it was when the Deputy was Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Dr. FitzGerald: My recollection—which is open to correction—is that the text of the communiqué was available to everybody on those occasions. I do not recall a previous occasion when no version of it appeared in public. The Taoiseach has said it is an understanding, not a communiqué. It is referred to in the Press, for what it is worth, as a communiqué, but I do not even know if there is a communiqué. We are in an impossible position here. For the Taoiseach to tell us that there will be one in the Library within 54 minutes of the debate is totally unsatisfactory, as he himself will agree. Therefore, could we have copies of it? If this is a serious Parliament we are entitled to know what was announced after that summit, or European Council Meeting, we are entitled to a chance to consider it, and indeed prepare ourselves for debate, having studied the communiqué or understanding, whatever it is called.

The Taoiseach: I am giving the House exactly the same courtesy extended to me. The Deputy can wax eloquent now when I am following precedents set by him and his then Taoiseach. I am acting in the same manner and, therefore, hope I am not being discourteous.

Mr. Cluskey: Would the Taoiseach not consider it to be in the best interests of the House and of the country that we have a copy of the understanding?

The Taoiseach: It is now in the Library, I believe.

Mr. Cluskey: Since when?

Dr. FitzGerald: Since when?

The Taoiseach: I am not certain but I notice that in a copy of the statement I will make the opening statement carries the phrase: “I have arranged to place copies of the understanding in the [867] Library for the information of Deputies”.

Mr. Cluskey: Would the Taoiseach not agree that it is in the interests of everybody concerned that there would be a constructive——

An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a debate on this matter. I am calling Question No. 3.

Mr. Cluskey: I am not having a debate; I am trying to ask a question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 3.

Mr. Cluskey: On a point of order, is the Chair refusing me the right to ask the Taoiseach a question on this matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is not in order to have a discussion. I have permitted the Deputy to ask a question, two questions actually.

Mr. Cluskey: I am not having a discussion or a debate. I am attempting to ask the Taoiseach a constructive question.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair has already permitted the Deputy to do so.

Mr. Cluskey: Is the Chair denying me that right?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair has already permitted the Deputy. It is not usual to have a discussion on a statement before it is made. The Chair will permit a statement from the Leaders of the different groups in the House.

Mr. Cluskey: Will the Chair permit me to ask a question of the Taoiseach?

An Ceann Comhairle: I have permitted the Deputy to do so.

Mr. Cluskey: Thank you. Would the Taoiseach not agree that it is in the best interests of everybody concerned——

The Taoiseach: The Deputy did not get permission; he assumed it.

[868] Mr. Cluskey: ——that we would have, well in advance of the Taoiseach's statement, a copy of the understanding so that there could be a constructive response to it?

The Taoiseach: The Deputy has drawn that defect to my attention. The defect was there also when I was in opposition. I intend to have it cured in future.

Mr. Cluskey: In view of what the Taoiseach rightly said—and I accept that if it happened in the previous administration it was also wrong—would the Taoiseach not agree that it would be also in the best interests of everybody if he did not make a statement until tomorrow morning?

The Taoiseach: I do not think so.

Mr. Cluskey: Why?

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 3.

Dr. FitzGerald: How many copies have been placed in the Library?

The Taoiseach: One.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. FitzGerald: How can the two Opposition Parties examine it? This is ridiculous. There are only 50 minutes to go before we have a debate.

An Taoiseach: I will give the Deputy one now.

Dr. FitzGerald: And we will only have 50 minutes to consider and discuss it—a document which has not appeared in the newspapers as it did on previous occasions.

An Taoiseach: The Deputy is being treated with exactly the same courtesy or discourtesy with which I was treated and the Deputies can wax eloquent enough with their own deficiencies.

Dr. FitzGerald: On previous occasions it appeared in the newspapers but [869] on this occasion it was not available to the newspapers for some reason.

An Taoiseach: I am not responsible for what appears in newspapers.

Mr. Cluskey: Instead of making this into a political row here, surely the Taoiseach will be reasonable and leave this until tomorrow morning, when we would have an opportunity to consider it.

An Taoiseach: I may not be available tomorrow morning.

Mr. Cluskey: What time tomorrow would suit the Taoiseach?

An Taoiseach: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to make after Question Time a statement on the outcome of the European Summit, according to the precedent in the House.

Mr. Cluskey: This is a fine start to the Presidency of the Council.