Dáil Éireann - Volume 331 - 25 November, 1981

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Appointment of Minister of State.

1. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach if it is his intention to appoint an additional Minister of State; if so, when this appointment will be made; and the responsibilities the Minister will have.

The Taoiseach: As the Deputy will be aware, the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1977, as amended by the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1980, provides that the Government may, on the nomination of the Taoiseach, appoint not more than 15 persons, who are Members of either House of the Oireachtas, to be Ministers of State at the Department of State. I will in due course, as provided by the above Act, appoint an additional Minister of State.

Miss Harney: Did the Taoiseach fully answer my question? I asked what responsibilities the Minister of State will have when appointed and when the appointment would be made. I would like to know this in view of the fact that a commitment was given by his party — and I understand it was in the Labour Party's programme which was put before the people — that a person would be appointed with responsibility for women's affairs. Since this person has not yet been appointed, I wonder if the Taoiseach intends to make this appointment and when?

The Taoiseach: The position is that the nomination is at my discretion, the appointment by the Government is at their discretion, and it is not the practice to indicate intentions in advance on this matter and I am not aware of any precedent for doing so.

[262] Mr. MacSharry: There are many interested people behind the Taoiseach.

Miss Harney: Would the Taoiseach agree that there are many areas of women's affairs which need urgent attention by this Government? Given the fact that he has already indicated, as has the Leader of the Seanad, Senator Hussey, and that it is in the Labour Party programme put to the people before the election, that such an appointment would be made, could the Taoiseach make this appointment or does he intend to fulfil this commitment?

The Taoiseach: That is a separate question and I do not propose to go beyond the reply I have given. On the general issue raised by the Deputy, I am concerned to ensure that the Government and the Dáil act effectively in the sphere of women's rights. I will take the necessary action to ensure that this is so at Government level and I will be proposing to the Dáil that a committee on women's rights should be established so that the Dáil can play its part. The committee will have wide terms of reference and I am sure I will have the co-operation of the Opposition.

Mr. Haughey: Would the Taoiseach indicate if it was in conformity with that stated objective of effectively safeguarding women's rights that the Attorney General, presumably with the full approval of the Government, established a committee to review the Constitution which does not have any woman member on it?

The Taoiseach: This is a matter for the Attorney General. The appointment of a woman to that committee is under consideration and the Deputy should not think the matter is closed.

Mr. Haughey: Would the Taoiseach not agree that the complete committee has been announced in the public press and that it is negativing any bona fides by this Government in regard to the area of women's rights that such an important committee could be established, presumably [263] with the full approval of the Taoiseach and the Government, without one woman member?

The Taoiseach: Because of the urgency of the matter we made an announcement about the setting up of this committee and the question of having an additional woman member on it is under consideration.

Mr. Haughey: Is it the position that the Taoiseach is endeavouring, late in the day, to mend his hand by appointing a token woman to that committee?

The Taoiseach: We do not appoint token women to anything and we do not have any token women on our benches.

Mr. Killilea: Has the Taoiseach given any thought to appointing another Senator as Minister of State? I acknowledge that something must be done in the area of women's rights but there are also the rights of the west. The Coalition Government, under the leadership of the Taoiseach, have been playing revenge politics on the people of the west over the last few months. Would he consider appointing a Deputy from the west so that he could take up the cudgels on behalf of the people of the west to protect them against the onslaught on this Government——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Killilea: We have Knock Airport, the Tuam sugar factory, a briquette factory, the crystal factory——

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Killilea, please——

Mr. Killilea: Would the Taoiseach consider even at this late stage appointing a Deputy from the west as Minister of State?

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Killilea must not make a statement.

Mr. Killilea: It is a sad day when a [264] Fianna Fáil Deputy has to bring such a matter before this House——

The Taoiseach: I notice there is disagreement among the Opposition Deputies as to what they want. Perhaps they should form a small advisory committee to tell me what they want. Of course I shall ignore their advice.

Miss Harney: Is the reason for the Taoiseach's delay in making this appointment due to the fact that he does not have a suitable candidate on the Government benches? I have asked when he will make the appointment and for what areas the appointee will have responsibility. I am none the wiser whether this person will have responsibility for women's affairs, for art and culture or for any other area. Is the delay because there are so many areas which need attention that he cannot make up his mind between the various candidates and the responsibilities to be looked after?

The Taoiseach: I am sorry I cannot tell the Deputy whether the appointment will be made before or after the appointments to the Opposition front bench.