Dáil Éireann - Volume 399 - 13 June, 1990
Private Members' Business. - Confidence in Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications: Motion (Resumed).
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Dáil Éireann has no confidence in the Minister for Justice and Communications.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: I want to make it clear that I support the Labour Party's motion of no confidence in the Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications,  although I should point out that if the Labour Party had got it right last Thursday, we would have even more reason to vote no confidence in this Minister as we would know more of that he has in mind in relation to broadcasting. In that regard it is my belief that there is only one clear and consistent element in the policy of this Minister. He wants to do irreparable damage to RTE by hook or by crook, but there the clarity ends. He is not sure how to go about this infamous and vengeful enterprise. In the space of a couple of weeks, he has come out with one scheme after another, each one worse than the one that went before it. So far the Minister has twice been publicly supported by the junior Government party, only to be denounced within the space of a couple of days. It will soon be time for the cock to crow a third time and I wonder if we will hear a third denunciation by the Progressive Democrats. Will they even be here tonight? Will any of them be here tonight or have the mould breakers finally turned to jelly?
The Government clearly have no confidence in this Minister. He has been accused publicly of cutting corners. Ministers have told him privately — some not so privately — that he has got it wrong. It is now commonplace to hear Fianna Fáil backbenchers, Progressive Democrat Senators and even Progressive Democrat spokesmen in exile publicly denouncing what this Minister is doing. There are divisions in the Government and there are divisions in Fianna Fáil about what this Minister is attempting to do. Everything he has touched so far has gone wrong. This latest and most naked act of revenge has gone wrong. It has been a disaster for the Government, a disaster that will dog them for the rest of their lives, however long or short that may be. If Members of the Government have learned anything at all from this fiasco it must surely be that they need to read very carefully and with very great suspicion anything that this Minister puts before the Cabinet. They will have learned that they should approach everything he says and does with distrust in  their hearts and alarm bells ringing in their ears. They should refuse to accept anything from him that is not written. In those circumstances, we have to ask, how they can possibly continue to work with him.
Look at the record. This Minister has not tackled in any real sense the many problems that beset our prison system. He has not dealt adequately with the many problems of HIV -positive prisoners. He has clearly failed to understand the flexibility offered by the design of Wheatfield Prison and he is not using that prison in a way that will most effectively deal with the problems in the prison system. He has failed totally to understand the need to improve management and decision-making structures in the Garda Síochána, in spite of the fact that the Garda Representative Association, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and senior Garda officers have consistently offered him pertinent and well-considered advice.
The Minister has utterly failed to explain his extraordinary action in obliging the RTE authority to sell Cablelink to Telecom Éireann, an under-bidder among a group of potential buyers, all of whom thought they were on a level playing pitch. It is clear that other members of the Government shared, at least temporarily, the real concerns we have on this side of the House with the Minister's unprecedented approach to the issue. It has been a very curious approach. The Irish taxpayer loses out because of what the Minister has done. The Government have left themselves open to the possibility of legal claims by the prime bidder, who have already said they are considering legal action. If they were misled, other bidders may take the same view and consider taking the same course. If the primary bidder had been allowed to purchase Cablelink, the Irish economy would have a net addition of £100 million of foreign investment rather than a simple transfer between one State company and another, which is what is on the cards at the moment.
Telecom Éireann do not seem to have got a great deal so far out of this. The  interest cost to Telecom Éireann of this purchase is reported to be about £4.5 million. Their share of the profits of Cablelink is reported to be about £1.2 million. Telecom Éireann already have substantial borrowings, guaranteed by the State, and here we are going to add more to that with further exposure to the taxpayer.
The activities of the IDA and even CTT have been damaged because the Minister has ensured that while there is an apparently competitive bidding situation, he is going to step in, completely distort the whole procedure and decide, for reasons he has not explained, that some under-bidder is going to be the one who wins out. That is going to damage the confidence of outside business interests in the way the Irish economy and substantial sectors of it are being handled.
Indeed members of the Government seem to share these very serious concerns. The Minister for Industry and Commerce went to the trouble of publicly vetoing the decision made by the Minister pending an examination by the Fair Trade Commission. The same Minister for Industry and Commerce later, and just as publicly, backed down from that position, allowed the sale to go ahead and covered himself by announcing a set of conditions that he surely could have written out for himself in the beginning, before going to the extraordinary lengths of publicly vetoing a decision by a colleague. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has not explained his action at all, and the rest of us here are forced to ask if agreement on the sale of Cablelink to Telecom was the price the Progressive Democrats had to pay for getting concessions on the Broadcasting Bill. If that was so, they have paid out and used up their political credit for nothing since it is very clear that Fianna Fáil would have extracted the same meagre, unsatisfactory concessions from the Minister if the Progressive Democrats had kept their mouths shut.
This is the Minister who wanted to retain for himself the power to issue broadcasting licences, but that went  wrong. He was forced to back down from that and was obliged to set up a commission. This is the Minister who sold the virtues of MMDS. Like many thousands of people around the country, I got a very glossy brochure in the post one day, with lovely pictures of the landscape of Ireland, saying how MMDS was going to resolve all the problems. What happens now? The Minister is saying that MMDS has to be supplemented by UHF.
Everything this Minister has done so far has gone wrong and all the indications are that what he is still planning to do will go wrong also. This, for example, is the Minister who wants to deliver TV3. I am told he is now advising some of the potential bidders that they should concentrate on Dublin and the east coast for at least three years. Why? Does the Minister believe that TV3 will be uneconomic or that it will not work, or, has he got some mad scheme up his sleeve for a TV4?
This Minister would have a hand in delivering on Fianna Fáil's 1987 promise of Teilifís na Gaeltachta. That has gone wrong. Nothing has happened, yet the Minister should know that there is a national campaign on this issue. It is very well informed, it is very well researched and there is now no belief either in his ability or in the Government's ability to understand the real meaning of the campaign or to deliver on their promise. The Minister has not admitted that the current shape of his plans for TV3 cut directly across the possible options for Irish language TV broadcasting. That is either because he is making a vain attempt to hide the fact or, perhaps, he simply does not understand it.
He has failed to do the two jobs he was given in this Cabinet. It is time for this House to recognise that. It is time for the Government and the Taoiseach to act on what they already know and to take this Minister off the playing pitch completely.
Deputies: Hear, hear.
Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications (Mr. Burke) Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications (Mr. Burke)
Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications (Mr. Burke): During the course of the debate on this motion  kind tributes have been paid to me by my colleagues, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I want to thank them for their support. Many other things, neither kind nor justified, have also been said about me and I am glad of this opportunity to say my piece.
I propose to turn first to my stewardship of the Department of Justice portfolio. The work of this Department impinges very directly on the lives and well being of all our citizens and on it depends, to a great extent, the preservation of some of their most fundamental rights — their rights to personal safety on our streets and in their homes, the safeguarding of their property and the protection of their rights under an adequate legal system.
I have been described, disparagingly, I need hardly say, as a part-time Minister for Justice. Well, let me review for you some of the achievements in this extremely wide and important area for which I have been responsible, in the period of 11 months since I was appointed. I will turn first of all to the Garda Síochána area. Since taking office as Minister for Justice in July last, one of my top priorities has been to ensure that the gardaí are equipped and deployed so that the ordinary citizen can live in peace and security, and to this end my objective has been to have as many gardaí as possible out on beat duty on our streets where they are most needed.
Last November I announced one of the most powerful crime fighting packages ever put together in aid of the Garda Síochána and the Garda Síochána have willingly acknowledged this. I have, since then, acted with determination to ensure that the various elements of the package are quickly implemented to ensure that maximum benefit is got from it. This package consisted of four main elements: first, the recruitment of 250 clerical staff so that gardaí can be released from office work to perform the work of preventing and detecting crime for which they are recruited and trained; second, 200 extra promotions in the Garda Síochána for the  purpose of strengthening Garda management; third, an extension of the retiring age, to 60 years, for gardaí. This extension, will, it is estimated, retain about 250 members in the Force, and fourth, an accelerated Garda recruit intake to ensure that the 1,000 Garda recruits being taken on become available for duty at the earliest possible date.
Apart from this package, I have ensured, with the approval of my colleagues in Government, that adequate funding has been made available in the current year to provide for Garda needs in the form of vehicles, technical equipment, radio equipment, computers, overtime, etc.
I have given active encouragement and support to the Garda Commissioner in extending the community policing concept — when I took up office as Minister gardaí were involved in 50 such projects in the DMA — there are now 91 projects and this system of policing, which has been found to be very effective, is set to expand further in the near future.
While speaking of DMA matters, I should refer to my support for the opening of a new Garda office in Upper O'Connell Street which is open to the public until midnight each night and is providing a most useful and welcome public service in the city centre. I should also mention that I made funds available — with the approval of my Government colleagues — so that extra gardaí could be on duty in our city centre streets in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
As evidence of the success of what I have been doing, I can quote from the following letter of appreciation, received very recently from the Dublin City Centre Business Association, which for a long time has been campaigning for extra policing in the city centre:
Dear Minister, I write to you on behalf of the members of this Association to congratulate you on your recent remarks stressing the positive results of “on street” policing.
Our members appreciate your efforts and ever increasing results since you became Minister for Justice.
 Yours sincerely, Tom Coffey, Chief Executive, DCCBA.
Mr. Burke Mr. Burke
Mr. Burke: I think that on any fairminded assessment, my list of achievements on the Garda side is rather impressive.
Before concluding my comments on the Garda side I want to congratulate the Garda Síochána on the excellent work they are doing and particularly on some outstanding successes which they have had in recent months. They can be assured of my wholehearted support whether this be by way of providing them with the resources they require to carry out their duties or by defending them from the unfair and unjustified attacks that are made on them from time to time from quarters from where they should least expect it.
Deputies: Hear, hear.
Mr. Burke Mr. Burke
Mr. Burke: I now turn to prisons. Since taking on responsibility for Justice, I have taken quite a number of initiatives which provide, I believe, clear evidence of my commitment to the implementation and further development of policy in this area. As part of the policy of developing a more humanitarian approach to the administration of sentences, I extended the Christmas release arrangement last Christmas to offenders whose release was not contemplated prior to this — this was a resounding success.
Again, related to the administration of sentences, I set up the “Sentence Review Group”. This put in place, for the first time ever, arrangements whereby the Minister for Justice can have the benefit of independent advice in relation to the administration of long term sentences. This incidentally was recommended by the Whitaker Committee.
The tragedy of deaths in custody has also been an issue of particular concern to me. Even though this is a recognised worldwide problem I was not prepared to leave it at that. I assembled a group  of people, expert in this whole area, to advise me in relation to this problem and I understand that they have now produced a number of interim recommendations. I shall be considering their report as a matter of urgency.
Over a number of years there has been criticism at the absence of a medical director for the Prison Service. I addressed this long standing problem and the House will be glad to know that I will be making an offer of appointment to this post in the next few days.
Another concern to which I have given priority is the problem of how to deal with prisoners who are suffering from communicable diseases, including HIV. In this sensitive and complex area, I have taken what I believe to be the most responsible approach in bringing together the best experts available, from within and outside the Prison Service, to advise me. In the meantime, I have given the go ahead for the construction of a special unit in Mountjoy to accommodate people suffering in this way.
In addition to the Mountjoy unit, work has commenced on the total refurbishment of St. Patrick's institution. This will include the complete refurbishment of the women's prison. Overall this year £8 million has been provided for prison building and maintenance works — clear evidence, I say, of my strong commitment to up-grading our prison accommodation.
Finally, since I took up office, the transfer of prison staffs and prisoners to the new Wheatfield Prison has been proceeding as planned. This prison is now three-quarters occupied and will be fully in operation by the end of this year.
Not a bad list of achievements, I submit, for my 11 months in office. I can claim also many other achievements in relation to other aspects of the work of the Department of Justice — as my time for speaking on this motion is limited, my references must be brief.
For example, my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, was kind enough to refer to my participation in the Anglo-Irish Conferences, some of which in recent times created new records in terms  of duration. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is the captain of our team on these occasions — I will say only that I played my part, in particular in relation to the vital security issues which invariably come up at these meetings.
On the law reform side, I have been responsible for the following legislation. I piloted the latter stages of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989, through the Oireachtas. The passing of this Act, apart from any other benefits, removed an obstacle to ratification by Ireland of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which duly came into force for Ireland on 8 March 1990.
As a complement to the crime fighting package to which I have already referred, I piloted through these Houses the first of what I expect will be a series of Bills reforming the criminal law. I refer to the Larceny Act, 1990, which brings the law on handling stolen property and the possession of articles for use in larceny, burglary and so forth up to date.
The Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990, introduces new and important controls on the carrying of dangerous weapons and greatly strengthens the hands of the gardaí in dealing with this problem. The Criminal Justice (No. 2) Bill, 1990 is the Bill published at my instance, to abolish the death penalty and was passed by this House yesterday. There has, as Deputies know, been a general welcome for this enlightened proposal. There is a need for it to be clearly seen that while we are abolishing capital punishment we are no less concerned to protect the lives of those who are in the front line in the fight against subversives and criminals.
Other Bills before the Oireachtas include the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill, 1990, the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Bill, 1988, the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Bill, 1989 and the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, 1990.
My intervention with the Law Society last August on the issue of entrance to the professional law school for training solicitors, was a factor in their subsequent  decision to greatly expand the intake of students by exempting Irish law graduates from sitting the competitive entrance examination. There will be about 400 admissions to the society's law school in the current year as a result of the changes, compared with an average intake of about 150 in recent years.
These then are some of the points of my record of service for 11 months as Minister for Justice and I have no qualms at presenting it to this House or to the wider public outside. The Deputies sitting opposite me in this House include a good few — a couple have spoken — who spent a good deal longer than my 11 months in the Office of Minister for Justice or Minister of State and I venture to say that they had not as much to show at the end of their tenure as I can boast of today. I will welcome any comparison or challenge on this that any of them care to make. I am not afraid to say that I am proud of my record to date and let me say also that it is my firm intention to keep up the good work of the Department with the same momentum with which I have started out.
I will finish my Justice report with a quotation from a letter I received within the last week in relation to the abolition of the death penalty. This letter was from the director of the Irish Section of Amnesty International, an organisation from which I suspect Ministers for Justice worldwide do not normally expect or get much praise. It says:
As a Minister who does what he actually says in the time specified, I have great admiration for your ability to get things done, and I don't mind if you “broadcast” it.
That bring me neatly to the Communications area.
In relation to Communications let me say at the outset that I welcome this opportunity to outline the major developments that have taken place and the objectives achieved under my stewardship as Minister for Communications. I believe that the past three years, since  I took office, have been the most innovative and progressive in the developments that have taken place.
The most serious and critical problem I had to address on taking up office was, of course, that of putting a legal framework in place to accommodate the manifest demand that existed for alternative choice in the broadcasting sector. This was parallelled by the need to close down the pirate radio stations to restore order to the airwaves.
The sheer size and difficulty of the problem, in both political and administrative terms, was compounded by the legacy I inherited as a result of the total inactivity of the previous Government. The failure of the previous Government over their five or so years in office to address the problem led to a serious undermining of the law generally and created a sense of pseudo-legitimacy about the pirate situation which made the task I faced much more difficult.
Notwithstanding those difficulties, we quickly and effectively faced up to them with a set of coherent objectives and policies. We created through the Radio and Television Act, 1988, the necessary regulatory framework which would allow the Irish public to create its own multiplicity of choice in the broadcasting area. At the same time through the Broadcasting and Wirleless Telegraphy Act, 1988, almost overnight, we did away with the pirate radio problem that had become endemic in this country.
These changes have constituted the most radical and progressive measures in the broadcasting area since the foundation of the State. They are in line with, and indeed in some respects are more innovative than, similar developments in other European countries. Yet, they are geared to responding to the particular circumstances of this country, an essential element of which, for example, is the emphasis on seeking to create new and additional sources of news, information and current affairs in broadcasting to offset the multiplicity of external services to which we are going to be exposed in the years ahead. They are equally geared  towards attaining the other elements of the Government's broadcasting policy which include ensuring that Irish broadcasting becomes a growth industry in line with the growth of broadcasting seen in other European countries; ensuring as far as possible that Irish broadcasting remains the mainstream Irish viewers' and listeners' choice; bringing new investment and higher productivity into Irish broadcasting; creating new secure employment in the sector and providing a seed bed for the growth of an independent audio-visual industrial business in this country.
The idea of establishing a national independent radio service as well as a new independent television service was particularly radical and yet is a logical and, indeed, essential element in the effective achievement of the policy objectives I have outlined.
Progress in the practical implementation of the 1988 Act has been impressive by any standards. Already the national radio service has been established as well as 18 local services with three more due to start shortly. Negotiations on the franchise for the TV3 service are well advanced and I would be optimistic about seeing the service on steam in the next year. This activity has given rise so far to employment of some 600 and I have every expectation that more employment will be created in the period ahead both in direct sector employment as well as in downstream employment.
The new legislation which I have brought before this House is all part of a process of creating an environment in which the development of the whole media sector — electronic and print — can proceed in a fair, competitive, highly efficient and productive manner, thereby strengthening the totality of the whole sector.
Much has been made in the course of recent discussion about the impact of the proposed measures by RTE. In particular various motivations have been ascribed to my actions to the effect that either I personally, or the Government of which I am a part, or indeed the Fianna Fáil  Party, is somehow out to “get” RTE on some sort of grudge basis. I want to refute such allegations unequivocally.
Mr. McCartan Mr. McCartan
Mr. McCartan: We believe the Minister.
Mr. Burke Mr. Burke
Mr. Burke: As an illustration of the Government's even-handedness and indeed their commitment to the RTE service, let us look at the various new developments that have taken place in RTE since I took up office. These include additional hours of broadcasting requested by RTE to enable them to provide their new lunch-time news service on RTE 1; additional broadcasting hours to enable RTE 2 television to commence transmission at 3 p.m. daily; additional broadcasting hours for Raidio na Gaeltachta; additional hours of broadcasting requested by RTE to enable the Radio 1 service to operate later into the night and additional broadcasting hours for the FM3 service and for the Cork local service.
Mr. Byrne Mr. Byrne
Mr. Byrne: Six hundred jobs have been lost.
Mr. Burke Mr. Burke
Mr. Burke: In addition, and notwithstanding the constraints on the Government's public capital programme in recent years generally, RTE was given approval to proceed with its first major new capital project for many years comprising a new library and major new studio accommodation at Donnybrook. These are not the acts of a Government that do not appreciate the importance of the role of RTE in society.
As in all spheres of Government and public administration our objective is always first and foremost to serve the public interest. I believe the policy objectives I have outlined for the broadcasting sector meet that criterion. As I was at pains to express in my opening statement on the Broadcasting Bill, the process of transition from monopoly or dominant control to competition — and of creating the conditions where that competition is fair to all parties — is a difficult one, particularly for the monopoly service.  Naturally therefore, RTE are expressing concern about the proposals and naturally they do not want anything done to prejudice the privileged, and in the competitive context, unfair position of dominance they have in their sector.
Let us remember that we heard such expressions of concern before. When multi-channel viewing through cable systems began to emerge in a significant way in this country through the late sixties and early seventies there were all sorts of dire predictions from RTE about its possible demise in the face of challenges from the much more wealthy external services.
Yet, RTE was more than capable of responding to the challenge of the external services and, indeed, I would suggest that much of the improvement we have seen in the RTE services in the past five or six years is in large measure attributable to such competition.
Likewise, RTE was to the fore in resisting any change to its domestic monopoly position in the radio broadcasting sector through the late seventies and eighties and was responsible in part for the paralysis that afflicted the then Government. This again was a manifestation of a lack of confidence in their ability to meet a new challenge — a lack of confidence which was totally unwarranted.
I repeat again, therefore, that our policies and proposals are not motivated by some perceived notions of grudges. They are based on a coherent and logical process of creating competition in the broadcasting domain, a policy with which all the major parties in this House agree, and one which I believe will strengthen the overall broadcasting sector in this country in the years ahead.
I want to refer now to the claims being made that my current proposals will result in major job losses in RTE. When I met the RTE Authority earlier this week I pointed out to them that over the past five years their income had increased quite dramatically. In 1985 their income was £85 million and they had 2,367 employees. In the year 1988 they had an income of £112 million and 2,250 employees and in the year 1989 they had  an income of £122 million and 2,247 employees. The effect of my proposals will return them to approximately the 1988 income level of £112 million within which they could clearly sustain current levels of employment. In this context, talk of large-scale lay-offs as a consequence of current proposals is totally unwarranted and can only be seen as scare tactics. I therefore asked the Authority to look again at all aspects of their costs and operations with a view to adjusting to the new broadcasting environment without major staff reductions of the kind being mentioned.
I accept that this latest challenge which RTE must face is a difficult one but I have every confidence that they can rise to this challenge, just as they have to the various other challenges I have mentioned. I believe RTE will remain the pre-eminent broadcasting organisation in this country, that they have and will continue to have a vital role in both informing and reflecting the values of our society, and that they will do so as effectively in the new competitive environment as they have done in the past.
Another area where I have been very conscious of the national interest has been in relation to the sale of Cablelink. In the first instance I want to emphatically refute allegations made in this House last night and again tonight that I forced RTE to sell their shareholding, or any part of it, in the cable company. There is absolutely no foundation to that allegation and I want that clearly on the record.
The decision to put Cablelink on the market was one taken solely by the RTE Authority and I had no hand, act or part in that decision. I was of course informed, as a matter of courtesy, by the then Chairman of the Authority of the Authority's intentions and I had no difficulty with their proposal. Indeed the initial decision of the Authority was essentially a market testing exercise aimed at gauging the extent of the interest in the system and determining its real market value. I think it is true to say that the Authority themselves were quite surprised at the extent of the interest in the system but more  particularly at the value put on it by the various bidders — a value that could never have been really estimated otherwise than by the approach taken by the Authority.
A Deputy A Deputy
A Deputy: That is not the only surprise they got.
Mr. R. Burke Mr. R. Burke
Mr. R. Burke: As to the suggestion that I forced RTE to sell the system at below the market price, this again is a totally unfounded allegation. I was not involved in any way in the bargaining process between Telecom and RTE and there is no question but Telecom paid the market price for Cablelink and met all the other conditions of sale set out by RTE and their external financial advisers. The RTE Authority were happy to accept the bid by Cablelink for half of their shareholding — as was the other shareholder, Allied Combined Trust — I am also supposed to have some influence there — who also sold their shareholding to Telecom at the same price.
In contrast to some of the Members opposite I am very happy with the decision by RTE to sell their shareholding to Telecom Éireann. It is no secret that I favoured such a decision and I am proud of that fact because, in my view, retaining this valuable asset in Irish ownership was very much in the national interest and in the best interests of Telecom, Cablelink and their customers. The best one can say about some of the comments from the Members opposite is that they have no perception of the revolution taking place in the whole communications sector. They fail to understand the changing international regulatory environment, the convergence that is taking place between the means of distribution of various types of communications ranging from voice, telex, data, broadcasting and video signals, or how, in the context of such development, the concerns being expressed about creating competition in the communications sector can not alone be met but, indeed under EC policies such as the “Open Network Provision”, can be greatly enhanced.
 The suggestion last night from Deputy Bruton that Telecom might not have the power to become involved in the cable business — which is an integral part of the country's communications infrastructure — borders on the preposterous. The company have all the necessary powers under section 14 (3) of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983, as well as under section 2 (14) of their Memorandum of Association to acquire the necessary shareholding in Cablelink. To contend that the fact that Cablelink is not going into foreign ownership is a missed opportunity to create competition in the telecommunications sector is to express a lack of real knowledge of how competition in that sector is going to evolve.
I repeat that I fully support the sale of 60 per cent of the Cablelink shares to Telecom, that this will be recognised in time as a most prudent and far-seeing move on the part of both RTE and Telecom Éireann. It is a decision that I as the Minister responsible for regulating both the cable and telecommunications industry support and to which I will be giving my full assent.
The success of Telecom Éireann, since I assumed responsibility for Communications matters, speaks for itself. The report and accounts of the company for the year ended March 1987 showed a net loss of £8 million. That situation has been totally reversed. The company's accounts for the year ended March 1990 will be published shortly and will show the excellent result of profits after tax of £75 million. The company have succeeded in wiping out their accumulated losses and this year will pay a dividend of £30 million to the Exchequer.
The financial success of the company has benefited customers through the very substantial reductions in telephone and data charges which have been introduced since 1988. Reductions were introduced on cross-Channel calls as well as on calls to most European countries, North America and some other countries. In fact, telecommunications charges have been reduced by over 17 per cent in real terms.
I have no intention of following Deputy  Dick Spring down the path of personal smear politics, which he engaged in here last night. In my political career it has been my experience — and I am in this House a long time now — that those who indulge in vindictive personal abuse are sooner or later, normally sooner, rejected by the Irish people. However, in the light of his own and his party's ministerial performance from 1982 to 1987, I am somewhat surprised that Deputy Spring should have the temerity to propose this motion. Certainly, he knows all about no confidence. From fairly early on, as every electoral test from the autumn of 1983 showed, there was no public confidence in the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government, no confidence in the Labour Party performance in Government, and, most unfortunate of all, no confidence in the country. Deputy Spring bears a major share of responsibility, as the Leader of the Labour Party, for the total economic paralysis of the mid-eighties, which saw the dole queues reach a quarter of a million, a doubling of the national debt, and zero economic growth, the worst performance in Europe.
In the mid-eighties the ideological blinkers of the Labour Party contributed to paralysis in decision-making in virtually every area of economic policy-making. When Deputy Spring was Minister for Energy, offshore exploration and development for oil and gas ground to a complete halt, because of insistence on draconian conditions which made it totally unattractive to commercial companies. I had to put that situation right and a second gas field is now ready to be developed. While I am on the subject of energy, let me say that I inherited from Deputy Spring as Minister for Energy the Dublin gas debacle. One of the first decisions I had to recommend to Government was the taking into public ownership of Dublin Gas. The conditions of the gas pipes in Dublin at the time were so bad that people were in fear of their lives and justifiably so.
In the broadcasting sector it was the same story. For over four years local radio failed to get off the ground, because  of the Labour Party's insistence on public ownership and control of the airwaves. In the meantime, of course, the pirate radio stations flourished in defiance of the law. Indeed, since we are on the subject of confidence in Ministers to govern, allow me to quote from page 166 of the diaries of a Cabinet colleague of Deputy Spring after a late-night Cabinet discussion in 1985 ended in disarray. She went home and wrote in the diary: “How can we govern? The whole Radio Bill has been sick-making. It has been a mess from the beginning”. The attitude of Deputy Jim Mitchell, the Minister at the time, was that he was not going to “fall out” with anybody over the Local Radio Bill. As a result nothing happened. As I said earlier, Deputy Spring knows all about no confidence in a Government.
The Labour Party, like others in this House, are fond of prattling at every opportunity about pluralism. Why should the principle of pluralism not apply to the broadcast media? The principle of a State monopoly of the airwaves is no longer defensible in this day and age, and is difficult to reconcile with the system of pluralist democracy.
The Labour Party would surely be the first to admit that the RTE broadcasting monopoly has been open to abuse. Specifically, I recall five years ago when Deputy Spring as a Coalition Minister threatened RTE with a withdrawal of support for the principle of public service broadcasting because of alleged political bias against the Labour Party. Deputy Spring wrote letters to RTE in June 1985 expressing his anger, indeed his sense of betrayal, at the treatment of his party by RTE at that time compared to The Workers' Party. The word “betrayal” is an interesting one, as it suggests that RTE public service broadcasters should favour those political parties who support the RTE monopoly, and that if they do not, then the monopoly should be reconsidered.
The best remedy for the abuse of monopoly is not letters or complaints, but the promotion of vigorous commercial  competition. Such competition has benefited Aer Lingus. Why should the creation and sustaining of pluralism in the broadcast media not benefit RTE?
It is impossible at this stage to discern any coherent philosophy behind the cacophony of opposition from Fine Gael to any and every measure I have proposed to level the playing field in relation to media. Only a little while ago we heard a lot about a new style of politics, a new model of constructive opposition. Indeed on the Sound Broadcasting Bill on 10 February 1988 Deputy Jim Mitchell piously stated as reported at column 1691 of the Official Report: “The nonsensical behaviour that has been a feature of this House for the last 10 years, with Opposition recklessly opposing, should be ended for all time. That is the approach I will advise my party to adopt.” So much humbug. The last ten days are the surest sign that Fine Gael have lost their way, and that opposition for them is now reduced to a question of who can shout the loudest.
I have tried, in the time available to me, to outline my policies and accomplishments in the areas of Communications and Justice for which I am honoured to hold the office of Minister. I have set out my record for my past 11 months in Justice and three years in Communications. It is one on which I have no fears of being judged by any panel of fairminded jurors.
On the first of January 1978 I got my first Government appointment — Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce. I have had the honour to be appointed to other ministries since then — Environment, Energy, Industry and Commerce and now my present dual portfolio. I have never given less than 100 per cent conscientious commitment to the performance of my duty in any of these ministries. Always I have tried to use whatever talents I may have to progress the matters that are my responsibility, for the betterment of all our people. And I have done it without fear or favour, malice or ill-will towards any individual or sectional interest. The precepts I have set out have been my guiding  principles in this post and they will be for as long in the future as I have the honour of holding public office.
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy McCartan.
Mr. Shatter Mr. Shatter
Mr. Shatter: Not a Progressive Democrat in sight. Where have the Progressive Democrats gone tonight?
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Shatter, allow this debate to proceed, please. I have called Deputy McCartan.
Mr. Shatter Mr. Shatter
Mr. Shatter: The junior partners have run out of the House. We must be touching a sensitive nerve.
Mr. Calleary Mr. Calleary
Mr. Calleary: The Deputy has not a sensitive nerve in him.
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Shatter will allow this debate to proceed in an orderly fashion. Deputy McCartan, without interruption.
Mr. McCartan Mr. McCartan
Mr. McCartan: On behalf of The Workers' Party I rise to support the motion of no confidence in the Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications. On 23 February last I issued a public statement calling on the Taoiseach to relieve Deputy Ray Burke of one of the two minsterial portfolios.
Before I proceed, I should say that I wish to share my time with Deputy Gilmore.
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that satisfactory? Agreed.
Mr. McCartan Mr. McCartan
Mr. McCartan: I called on the Taoiseach to do this because of what I described as the growing chaos within the areas for which he had responsibility — Justice and Communications. On reflection I was being generous to Deputy Burke and clearly under-estimated his political malevolence and his capacity to do damage to the public interest. Events of the past few weeks have shown quite clearly that Deputy Burke is quite unfit to hold any ministerial office. Probably  not since the dramatic events of May 1970 has there been such a compelling case for relieving a Government Minister of office.
Perhaps nothing better sums up Deputy Burke's approach to the political process than his action in deliberately collapsing the debate on the Broadcasting Bill. It is not unprecedented for a Second Stage debate on a Bill to end prematurely because of the absence of a speaker. It is, however, unprecedented in my experience in this House for a Government Minister to instruct one of his own backbenchers who was offering to speak to sit down so that the Minister could take advantage of the temporary absence of the next Opposition speaker to terminate the debate. This was done by Deputy Burke despite the fact that this was a controversial Bill of major public importance, his knowledge that many Members wished to contribute to the debate, and the clear assurance given by the Taoiseach last Thursday morning that every Deputy who wished to contribute to the debate would be allowed to do so. There would be no guillotine, however contrived.
Deputy Burke is a member of that school of politics where the cute stroke is far more important than any political principle, and indeed where the only political principle seems to be “What is in it for me, and my political supporters?”
The Tánaiste, Deputy Lenihan, speaking in the debate last night said the Government stood collectively behind Deputy Burke. If that is so, they must also stand collectively indicted for the actions of the Minister, for his gross mishandling of the Justice portfolio, for his crude attempt to gut RTE, for his outrageous attempt to rescue the Government's political supporters in private radio stations from the results of their own commercial mismanagement and misjudgment, and for his determination to ensure that the Michael Smurfits of this world in TV3 will not have to face any real competition from RTE.
Most of the attention in recent weeks has, naturally enough, focused on the Minister's actions in the Communications  area. Before dealing with that area however, I want to look at his record in the regard to his other portfolio, Justice. Since being appointed to this office the Justice area has been characterised by collapsing public services and an alarming increase in deaths of persons in custody.
Two important State boards for which the Minister has responsibility, the Civil Legal Aid Board and the Garda Complaints Board, are in chaos. The chairman and two members of the Legal Aid Board were forced to resign out of frustration and most of its law centres have been unable to offer anything even approaching an acceptable level of service to the public. More than ten years after the Airey judgment in the European Court of Human Rights forced a reluctant Government to move, the most vulnerable in our society — battered wives, deserted spouses, single mothers, the poor and the unemployed are still denied reasonable access to the protection of the courts.
The Garda Complaints Board is in a similar position, and because of lack of resources has not been able to process any new complaints for more than six months. The situation is so bad that at the end of April the chairman of the board was forced to say that it should be either properly funded or abolished.
Most tragic of all is the continuing death toll in our prisons, due mainly to the appalling conditions in our penal institutions, while the recommendations of the Whitaker report remain largely unimplemented. Let me remind the Minister and the Government who stand so squarely behind him of the suicide toll in our prisons during his short 12 month period of office: Thomas Cash, Arbour Hill, 4 October 1989; Joseph Cawley, Mountjoy, 14 November 1989; John Patrick Buckley, 26 December 1989; 18 year old Sharon Gregg, Women's Prison, Mountjoy, 6 March 1990; Edward Doran, Mountjoy, 4 April 1990.
I am not, of course, suggesting that the Minister has any personal responsibility for these deaths. There have been similar deaths during the terms of office of other  Ministers. But Deputy Burke has ministerial responsibility for the toleration of the sort of conditions which make these deaths inevitable and which condemn other prisoners to die, unless they are tackled, and tackled rapidly. This, rather than RTE should be the target of the Minister's attentions.
There are other areas deserving of the Minister's attention which have been largely ignored. Despite substantial evidence of a worrying level of corruption in the planning process in the Dublin area and the concern expressed by the elected representatives and members of the public, the Minister has scorned requests for a public inquiry into these allegations. There is at least a prima facie case of a major conspiracy involving some elected representatives and a handful of officials to subvert the entire planning process in the Dublin area.
Everyone is aware that a Garda inquiry has been in progress for some time. Everyone is also aware, given the nature of the allegations, it is unlikely, despite the best efforts of the Garda involved, that a standard police inquiry will get to the bottom of the affair. Only a sworn public inquiry could do that job. The Minister has, for reasons that we can speculate on, dismissed that request. His refusal is all the more significant given his intense interest in planning matters during his long political career at national and local levels.
However, it is in his dealings in recent weeks with RTE that the Minister for Communications, Deputy Burke, has been seen at his worst. The Minister seems to relish his image as the “Rambo” tough guy figure of this Government, who is sent in to sort out those who have, in some way, offended Fianna Fáil. The relationship between any political party and the national broadcasting service should not be a comfortable or cosy one. All of the political parties in this House, including The Workers' Party, have had their differences and their disputes with RTE, but the relationship between Fianna Fáil in office and RTE has been characterised by threats, bullying and intimidation.
 Those who know anything about politics or the broadcasting area, know of the threatening phone calls from Ministers and the Government press secretary over programmes they do not consider to have been sufficiently flattering to the Government. Everyone knows, as Deputy De Rossa said during the debate last week, that the Minister and the Government press secretary have been boasting for some time that they would wreak revenge on RTE for their role in exposing some of the more grotesque activities of Fianna Fáil under the leadership of the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey.
The advent of commercial broadcasting was the opportunity they were waiting for to both snare RTE and to repay the generosity which many of those involved in commercial broadcasting had shown to Fianna Fáil at election times in the past. This was the aim of the Broadcasting Bill, as originally published. However, the Minister for Communications, Deputy Burke, and his colleagues seriously underestimated the level of support among the public for RTE and for their high broadcasting standards, and were forced to go through the motions of appearing to compromise and modify their stand.
The decision to drop the original proposal to make up to 25 per cent of licence revenue available for commercial broadcasters was part of this strategy, but the compromise and modification by the Minister was a mirage. It is true he dropped the proposal on the licence fee, but he then simply decided to impose the same crippling penalty on RTE by a different method. The decision to so severely restrict RTE's capacity to take advertising is likely to result in an even greater drop in revenue than would have resulted from the original Bill. On the Minister's own admission this will cost RTE a minimum of £12 million per year. This can only mean a deterioration in the quality of programmes and a huge level of job losses.
It is clear that the ultimate intended beneficiary of the Government's move is TV3: if Century can be helped, all the better but TV3 is the real prize. The  ironic thing is, as everyone in the advertising industry has pointed out, there is no guarantee at all that the advertising revenue taken away from RTE will go to either TV3 or any of the commercial radio stations.
Advertisers follow the audience. They will go to the medium that offers them best results. That is why RTE have done so well and Century have done so poorly. It is all linked to programme quality. Good programes deliver audiences which deliver advertisers who deliver revenue. Having capped RTE's advertising the most likely scenario is that the diverted revenue will go to what advertisers consider to be the next best option — UTV, Channel 4, HTV and Sky, all of whom have significant audience levels in this country. With the diverted revenue will go jobs, not just in RTE but in the advertising industry and the production companies. The Minister clearly considers this to be a minor price to pay to satisfy Fianna Fáil's vendetta against RTE.
What of the role of the Progressive Democrats in all this — the party who promised to bring new levels of honesty and integrity to the political system? They have disgraced themselves once again. I note that throughout the debate this evening they have not graced this House to listen or to give any support to the Minister for Communications. On their own admission, we are asked to believe that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, and the Minister for Energy, Deputy Molloy, did not really realise the significance of the original Bill when it came before the Cabinet. They did not notice what was involved. They had missed the consequences of it for RTE and if they realised what was in the Bill they would have called a halt. If this is true then the two Progressive Democrat Ministers clearly qualify for the roles of Dopey and Sleepy of this Cabinet.
It is far more likely that they did indeed recognise the significance of the Bill but that, take their fellow Fianna Fáil Minsters, they totally underestimated the public reaction to their proposals. The original Bill and its revised version show  all the signs of being the offspring of the marriage of Fianna Fáil's determination to settle scores with RTE and the Progressive Democrats revulsion at the idea that anything owned by the people could be successful or possibly operate profitably.
The treatment of RTE by the Minister for Communications has been appalling and that has almost been matched by the contemptuous way in which he treated the Members of this House last Thursday. He has proven to be an inept and incompetent Minister for Justice and a bullying and loutish Minister for Communications. He has shown himself unfit to hold Cabinet office and, therefore, we have no hesitation in supporting this motion of no confidence.
Mr. Gilmore Mr. Gilmore
Mr. Gilmore: For a number of years before my election to this House last June I served as a delegate to the RTE group of unions. As a trade union official who represented some of the staff employed by RTE I was involved, in the negotiation of productivity agreements over the past number of years and I saw, close up, RTE prepare for competition. I was with RTE staff when they agreed to major changes in work practices and employment conditions and I saw staff numbers reduced from 2,373 in 1979 to 2,071 today.
Despite this reduction in staff, RTE succeeded in putting on air a second television channel of international standard and the 2FM radio service. As the outgoing chairman of the RTE Authority stated in the recent annual report of the company, over the past five years total television hours have increased by 24 per cent, home productions in televsion have increased by 37 per cent, total radio hours have gone up by 31 per cent, there has been a 17 per cent increase in TV multichannel market share and a whopping 40 per cent increase in productivity. All this has been achieved with a reduced staff and no increase in the licence fee.
Government Ministers who spoke last night would have us believe that these fine results are attributable to the inspired  guidance of the Minister for Communications but I know they are due to the committed hard work of RTE staff, to those who work a 14-hour day with no overtime, to those working on short-term contracts — these people are now terrified that these contracts will not be renewed — to the spirit of enterprise and the work ethic so much talked about by this Government, but which ends up being punished rather than rewarded.
Workers who make such a contribution might well expect a share in the profits they have generated but when it comes to profitable State enterprise the Government have a different concept of profit-sharing — for this Government profit-sharing means that if RTE make a profit they must share it with their competitors and not with the workers whose efforts have produced it. Because I was at the operating table while RTE were being pared to the bone, I know there is no more fat to be trimmed and that the Government's proposals will result in 400-500 job losses directly in RTE, in the loss of hundreds of other jobs in film and video making and ultimately in a reduction of programme making and the possible closing down of some RTE channels.
If the Minister for Communications's proposals go through, in a couple of years' time the debate in broadcasting will be about the closure of Network 2, 2FM or even Raidió na Gaeltachta and why RTE are making a loss. The public memory can be short, and the Minister, Deputy Burke, may be depending on this. After all, who now remembers that B & I was once a profitable company until, among other things, a Fianna Fáil Government forced it to buy ships it did not need from Verolme Dockyard in advance of two Cork by-elections in 1979? Who can remember that Irish Shipping was once a profitable company until it too suffered from Fianna Fáil political interference in its commercial affairs? The Minister is not levelling the playing pitch; he is denying to RTE the right to compete at all.
This issue, however, is about more than the transfer of resources; it is also  about censorship, about the Government's wish to dictate to the broadcasting media how they should cover news and what they should examine. Other Deputies have referred to the Minister's expressed threat to get even with RTE, but it is wider than that. For some years the Taoiseach, his handlers and his Ministers have been peddling the message that any RTE news coverage or current affairs programme which criticises the Government is some kind of Workers' Party plot. By sheer repetition they have succeeded in creating an image that RTE is crawling with members of The Workers Party. They have had some success. The Sunday Business Post, for example, a quality newspaper for which I have great respect, recently editorialised about what it called Workers' Party propaganda emanating from Radio 1 and the two television channels. It is time we had an end to these wild generalisations and addressed specifics. Both Minister Burke and the Taoiseach are fond of mentioning “Morning Ireland” as an example of excessive Workers' Party coverage. I have examined the “Morning Ireland” record. In the past three months “Morning Ireland” has interviewed Workers' Party spokespersons on only three occasions, which is hardly excessive.
The Fianna Fáil intent on raising the McCarthy-ite ogre of The Workers' Party is not simply to keep Workers' Party spokespersons off the airwaves, although that is an added bonus but to send a signal to the news and current affairs sections of RTE that the Minister is watching and listening, and if he is sufficiently displeased with what he hears and sees, that he can get even. This is part of a thought out, calculated and deliberate strategy designated to intimidate professional journalists and programme makers from carrying criticism of Fianna Fáil orthodoxy. What is good for Fianna Fáil, their friends and financial backers is automatically good for the country. By sheer repetition the Taoiseach and his Man Friday have had some success. The self-censorship climate is palpably obvious on certain issues. Constant telephone calls from the man behind Il Duce are an  attempt to get RTE to speak with uno voce, the Fianna Fáil voice. The Government have a lot of power over RTE. They can replace the RTE Authority just as they did two weeks ago: the entire authority was replaced with one exception, Mr. John Carroll. The Authority now comprises, as Deputy Spring said last night, Fianna Fáil loyalists seasoned by a couple of Progressive Democrat appointees. Minister Burke's continued confidence in Mr. Carroll speaks volumes.
At one stroke the Government are striking terror into RTE and making the rest of the broadcasting media, and indeed the print media, somewhat dependent on the spin off advertising revenue which results from RTE's capping. One does not have to legislate for censorship. One can silence one medium and make the rest beholden to one simply by directing advertising revenue. Money talks, as the Minister knows only too well.
Minister Burke is no longer Minister for Communications, he is now the Minister for Censorship. He is not just Minister for Censorship. Not even in a South American dictatorship is the Minister for Censorship and the Minister for Police and Prisons all rolled into the one person. Like other Deputies I have been disturbed by the less than compatible combination of the Justice and Communications portofolios. Even if the occupant of the post was an expansive liberal, the secretive, confidential ethos of the Department of Justice and the necessarily open, informative demands of Communications would sit uneasily together. But when the Minister behaves in the gung-ho manner we have seen over the past year, then it is clear that Justice and Communications are in conflict. Let me give an example. For the past 18 months the Garda have been investigating allegations of corruption in the planning system in Dublin, including Dublin County Council of which Minister Burke was chairman for almost two years. I know that the Garda investigation has ground to a halt because the  whole planning area is far too complex for the limited resources available to the Garda and, indeed, because it is known that the Minister himself is less than enthusiastic about the investigation in the first place.
Mr. Lenihan Mr. Lenihan
Mr. Lenihan: Smear.
Mr. Gilmore Mr. Gilmore
Mr. Gilmore: It is no smear. Where is the public inquiry? I, and other Deputies, have called for a public inquiry into the issue. Who is responsible for setting up public inquiries? None other than Minister Burke himself who, not surprisingly, refuses to establish a public inquiry. So where does the Minister for Communications fit into this? The print media have given the issue a lot of attention, but is it not remarkable that RTE have avoided it? For example, I recall that when I and some of my Party colleagues raised the Dublin planning scandal during the debate on the Planning Compensation Bill last February, RTE did not cover the story until the following day when it had already appeared in the print media. The Dublin planning scandal is just the kind of issue which, in the absence of a public inquiry, and with a Garda investigation which is going nowhere, is crying out for good investigative television journalism. The Guildford Four might still be in prison but for good television journalism. The truth about planning corruption in Dublin will remain a mystery until it is exposed to public view, but the climate of censorship and fear which is being fostered by the Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications and the Government is hardly conducive to the production of a documentary on Dublin's planning process.
When a Government Minister with so much power behaves as Minister Burke has over the past year he frightens people. When RTE staff see their income capped, their Authority replaced and menacing threats made about their programming, they fear for their employment and for their careers. That is hardly  conducive to good independent broadcasting. Over the course of the past year my colleague, Deputy McCartan, has pointed out that it is not compatible for one Minister to hold the portfolios of Justice and Communications. He has pointed out that the demands of these offices, particularly in a situation where there is no Minister of State, are such that at the very least the Taoiseach should relieve Minister Burke of one of these portfolios. Those demands have not been met.
The events of the past couple of weeks, the treatment of RTE — and notwithstanding what the Minister has said this evening — the neglect of the state of policing in this country, the treatment of this House in relation to the debate on broadcasting, all point in one direction only and that is that it is time for the Minister, Deputy Burke, to go. The Tánaiste here last night complained that the motion of no confidence in the Minister for Justice and Communications had been placed so soon. As I see it, if this Minister continues to behave in the way that he has over the course of the past year, and particularly over the course of the past number of weeks, if he continues to display the hard-man, macho-type approach to the two sensitive portfolios that he holds, then the motion of no confidence that we are debating tonight may well be the first of many motions of no confidence in the same Minister.
Mr. O'Donoghue Mr. O'Donoghue
Mr. O'Donoghue: If proof were needed that this debate has been shrouded in bitterness and distortion one needs only to reflect on the comments of Deputy Gilmore here tonight. This issue has been addressed by the Opposition with a hysteria which has little to do with sincerity and less to do with the truth. All of the Minister's proposals have been opposed in a mean and vindictive way inside this House and, significantly, in some well defined areas outside it.
The real motivation of some of the Members who contributed to this debate has nothing whatsoever to do with broadcasting policies. Innuendos bearing no relation to facts or broadcasting have  been thrown about with abandon. The nod and wink were used in a mean and vindictive fashion. Even the members of the IRTC, headed up by one of the country's most distinguished jurists, were not spared. However, after all is said and done, the credibility and integrity of the Minister, and the IRTC, have been heightened rather than damaged. I depend on the common good sense of the great Irish people for that. The Minister has spared no effort towards ensuring equity and fairness in Irish broadcasting.
RTE is a fine station and we can all be proud of it but it occupies a monopolistic position in the marketplace. Monopolies are, for the most part, undesirable and have been singled out for special attention in the Treaty of Rome. It is an irrefutable fact that no independent station could hope to compete with a competitor financed by both advertising revenue and licence fees from viewers. It also goes without saying that the print media is similarly at an unfair disadvantage. If we want independent radio, if we want independent television, and if we want our print media to flourish, indeed, if we want competition, we must have fair competition. It is a fact of life that monopolies tend to abuse their position. On the other hand, fair competition has always been the life of trade.
In recent weeks, and disappointingly so, some of Ireland's best known broadcasters have used their privileged and trusted positions in RTE to launch attacks on the Minister's policies. This would have been all very well if there had been somebody there to give the other side of the argument on the public airwaves but that facility was not provided. Natural justice demanded that there should have been such a facility. Regardless of the Government in power, this is a dangerous road to go down and it strikes at the fundamental principles of justice and fair play.
Politicians are often criticised for their reluctance to change their minds once they have adopted a particular view. It is true that many people in our profession regard it as a perceived sign of weakness if they move, even slightly, from a  position which they have taken. It is, of course, nothing of the kind. It shows strength of character, rather than weakness, to listen to the opinions of others before making a final decision and surely that is the essence of democracy. This miserable Opposition have continually accused us of being totally arrogant and inflexible and yet when the Government showed themselves to be flexible we heard nothing but taunts of “embarrassing U-turn” or “humiliating climb-down”. The Government, and the Minister in particular, have shown that they have the courage to listen to reasoned argument and to make changes accordingly if these are seen to be sensible. What we are not prepared to tolerate is a personal vilification from people who were incapable of introducing a broadcasting Bill of any sort, let alone amend it. The Tánaiste has already outlined the speedy and decisive way in which Deputy Burke has transformed something that was chaotic, dominated by pirates, into the present broadcasting environment with many fine stations throughout the country, properly licensed and providing the variety and service that we sought for so long.
The situation we have now reached was best summed up by the Irish Independent editorial of 8 June which stated that the modified Bill was to be welcomed as a mature response to the wishes of the Irish people. It said the Bill was sensible legislation which should now be enacted without further pusillanimous posturing by RTE and their political allies.
Tomás Mac Giolla Tomás Mac Giolla
Tomás Mac Giolla: That is Tony O'Reilly speaking.
Mr. O'Donoghue Mr. O'Donoghue
Mr. O'Donoghue: The Minister has shown the type of courage and strength of character that I have spoken of. For this he deserves nothing but praise. He is admired by every Member on this side of the House and, I suspect, by many on the opposite benches. He has been hounded from pillar to post in recent weeks. He has taken it on the chin from Opposition and vested interests alike for trying to be fair. He has shown that, unlike his  detractors, he is not afraid to drag Irish broadcasting into the 21st century, however reluctant some people may be in their hitherto cosy and unchallenged positions. He has been an outstanding advocate for his party and his country. He has nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of, both at home and abroad. I strongly urge the House to treat the motion with the contempt it so richly deserves.
Mr. T. O'Sullivan Mr. T. O'Sullivan
Mr. T. O'Sullivan: I propose to share my time with Deputy Spring. The presence of so many members of the Government in the House last night, and again tonight, is an indication of how seriously the Government are taking this Labour Party motion of no confidence in the Minister, Deputy Burke. The choice of speakers in his defence, the Tánaiste, Deputy Lenihan, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Collins, is confirmation that the Government are under pressure as a result of what has happened in recent days following the introduction of Minister Burke's Broadcasting Bill and his subsequent abdication on Thursday last. Given the very demanding and onerous duties of any Minister, and add to that the fact that both Ministers concerned are now actively involved in their own respective election campaigns, is further confirmation that a siege mentality now prevails within the Cabinet.
The Tánaiste, drawing from his vast experience, did his utmost to divert the attack from his colleague. He first attempted to discredit my party leader, Deputy Spring, and then Deputy Michael Higgins. It is worth noting, however, that this counter-attack by the Tánaiste was on the tenor of the contributions rather than on the content. The Tánaiste went to some pains to point out to the House that the Government subscribe to a system of collective responsibility and that the motion before the House was one of no confidence in the Government. “We stand by Minister Burke”, the Tánaiste said. All I can say about “standing by Minister Burke” is that, despite the assurances of the Tánaiste, some of his  colleagues were standing well back, namely the Progressive Democrats. They adopted a similar role tonight and are conspicuous by their absence from the Chamber. They did not offer even token support for their beleaguered colleague. Their absence is quite understandable having been led into this quagmire by the Minister and, obviously, they do not feel obliged to offer any defence on his behalf.
The Progressive Democrats need to advance some explanation following the acceptance at the weekend by the chairman of their party of the amended Bill. His welcome for the amendments, which will ensure the demise of RTE, by way of capping of advertising as against parting with licence fees, is like offering a condemned man the choice of method of execution. The end result would be the same; the only difference is in the degree of pain the condemned man will have to endure. The Tánaiste went on to say that the Minister had a reputation for getting things done and I do not dispute that. I have no doubt that many people in RTE will agree with that statement. Where disagreement arises is in regard to what he has done, what he is about to do, how he will do it, the reasons he is doing it and who will benefit from what he is doing.
It is certainly not in the interests of RTE or the Irish taxpayer. Having watched the Minister at close range for the past three years I consider that he did a good job in getting rid of the pirate stations. I regret to say, however, that he did not complete the task. As yet, the much lauded commission of the Minister's creation has not yet granted licences to the many community-based broadcasting organisations who have applied to them for a licence. The one exception is a station based in the Minister's constituency, at St. Ita's mental hospital, Portrane in north county Dublin. The Minister owes the House an explanation as to when this licence was granted and why no decision has been made on the other applications before the commission. Once again, we have an illustration of the Minister's concept of a level playing pitch.
 The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Collins, come to the defence of his ministerial colleague. Once again, we had the voice of experience coming in to support his colleague. Again, we had the counter-attack with the Minister for Foreign Affairs accusing the Labour Party of misusing parliamentary procedures. He stated that motions of no confidence were a device that should be seldom used, and I agree with that view. However, what is the Opposition to do when the Minister used a parliamentary device that should never be used rather than responding to a debate?
The manner in which the Minister for Communications terminated the Second Stage of the debate on that occasion set many precedents. First, it must have set a record as the shortest response to any debate given by a Minister since the foundation of the State. Second, the manner by which he achieved that distinction. His callous directive to one of his backbenchers, Deputy Callely, who, compared to the Minister, is a mere fledgeling in terms of parliamentary experience having only served 11 months in the House. That hapless young man was ill-equipped to cope with the demands placed on him by the Minister whose only concern was self-preservation. The closing of ranks and the display of comradeship which was in evidence in the House last night, and again tonight did not extend to Deputy Callely on that occasion. Will Minister Collins not agree — I appreciate that he is on State business outside the country — that this was a flagrant breach of parliamentary procedures about which he claims to be concerned? I hope that Deputy Callely will recover from the setback and that he will never again be subjected to the kind of abuse visited on him following last Thursday's débacle in this House.
Parliamentary democracy, having reached its nadir in this House by the actions of Minister Burke, has the resilience to recover from the mauling which it received at the hands of the Minister in whom we are now expressing our lack of confidence in his ability to perform the task entrusted to him in the name of the  people. The problem which now confronts the House has it origins in a speech made by Minister Burke in response to a Private Members' motion tabled by Deputy Jim Mitchell on 29 May last. In that speech he rejected out of hand the idea of a broadcasting review body which was the central point in the motion. He then proceeded to explain to the House how he intended to dismember RTE and scant reference was made to any other section of the motion.
Minister Burke ensured that RTE did not die intestate. The Independent Radio and Television Commission were to be the executors of the RTE estate and Century Radio were to be the main beneficiaries. Since then, the Minister has changed his mind on the apportionment of the estate with the approval of his Coalition partners. At this stage it would be honourable to withdraw this ill-conceived legislation.
During the ongoing debate on broadcasting, there have been continual references to the monopoly enjoyed by RTE and several speakers on the Government side referred to it tonight. Has anyone in this House ever asked why they have a monopoly? The answer is very simple; the monopoly arose from the fact that we would not have had a radio service for over 60 years if the State had not become involved. As usual, the private sector dragged its heels as it did in the case of the ESB, CIE, Bord na Móna, Telecom Éireann and An Post. Now that we have a State sector firm which can be efficient and profitable the Minister feels he has a right to intervene and disburse these profits among his friends without any dividend or payment going to the taxpayer who provided the service in the first instance. This is misappropriation of a State asset and an abuse of power by Minister Burke.
Much has been said about the effect of RTE on the print media sector, indeed, I am beginning to think that Deputy O'Donoghue has a vested interest in the Irish Press. It is claimed that dual funding from licence fees and advertising is giving an unfair advantage to RTE. This is a spurious argument, as newspapers also  enjoy dual funding from sales and advertising and, unlike RTE, do not have restrictions on the amount of advertising in any particuar issue. If there is a demand for increased advertising space, newspapers are free to publish a supplement.
The Century experience has proved beyond doubt that there is not sufficient business to maintain a third national radio station. This now poses the question of the wisdom of the introduction of a third TV channel. The Minister should make a statement in this House spelling out his intentions for the future of Network 2 because I fear that they could be faced with the same threat facing 2FM in radio. I do not agree with other Members that the option now is for TV3. I believe the Minister intends to suppress and cannibalise Network 2 and hand it over to the private sector.
Mr. Spring Mr. Spring
Mr. Spring: In the few minutes available to me, I wish to make a number of points specifically in relation to the Tánaiste's remarks last night and echoed by the Minister this evening in relation to the accusation that we had behaved in an hysterical manner and that this is all about smear tactics and a smear campaign. The Tánaiste, in particular, appears to have a very short memory in relation to contributions made in this House down through the years by very senior members of the Fianna Fáil Party. I stand over everything I said last night because my remarks were within the rules of parliamentary debate. The motion of no confidence in the Minister for Communications and Justice was not put down lightly, it was tabled on very justifiable grounds. It relates to his performance — or lack of it — in his portfolios in the recent past and over the last number of years. It relates to the conduct of his public office which must be distinguished from his personal and private life and there was no reference to the latter. They are different and must be kept separate. It is very important that they are kept separate at all times within parliamentary democracy.
 The matters to which I referred last night concerned public policy and interest, in which the public take a great interest. Three senior Ministers, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Justice and Communications have failed miserably to either reject or deny the charges which I levelled in this House last night. I can only arrive at one conclusion — either the charges are rejected or they stand. The charges I made last night stand in this House and will stand in future.
We will be pursuing three areas, to which I referred last night, in the coming months and they are all directly within the area of responsibility of the Minister for Justice. His colleague, Minister Flynn, did not demur when the charge was made by Deputy Quinn in this House in relation to fraud and corruption in the planning process in County Dublin. That area must be pursued in the public interest. There is also the question of the Government settling a case which they were defending for millions of pounds. The Government's case was that fraudulent practices were being engaged in by an exporting company yet the Government settled with millions of pounds of taxpayers' money. That matter must be clarified to the satisfaction of the public.
There is also the continuing scandal and failure of the investigation into the merchant banking scandal, despite prosecutions outside the jurisdiction. Despite fraudulent banking practices nothing has been done and all these areas relate to the portfolio held by the Minister.
The Minister's conduct prior to last Thursday in relation to broadcasting has been quite amazing, if not farcical. In the first instance he intended to issue the licences himself but he could not do so because he did not have a majority in the House and he had to change his mind. On changing his mind, it was to be self-financing, it would support itself in the free market. However, the Minister was wrong and he had to come to this House looking for money because it was a failure. The Minister's presentation in relation to MMDS was colourful in the  first instance but he has now had to reverse that presentation.
In relation to Telefís na Gaeltachta, promised by Fianna Fáil — and perhaps one of the last opportunities to preserve the language — the Minister, by his actions in relation to the Broadcasting Bill, has now ensured that Fianna Fáil, despite their lip-service over the years to the language and to the Gaeltacht, are putting the final nail in the coffin of any aspiration to preserve the language for a small section of the community.
The Broadcasting Bill, as framed, is the death knell of any aspiration the country has to preserving the language. The opportunity the Minister got in Private Members' time to announce his attack on RTE was grasped by him. It was said by many speakers in this debate that the Minister, on his very first night of appointment to Communications, told RTE that he would get them in due course. The Minister did not deny the accusation and in the absence of such an denial it must stand. We can take it that the Minister informed senior officials in RTE that the first chance he had he would get RTE and he has pursued that course ever since.
The Taoiseach assured us that the House would have a full opportunity to debate the Broadcasting Bill. When I refer to the Broadcasting Bill I am talking about the original Bill, not the one on which the Minister spoke last week, which we have not yet seen, which is quite an unusual procedure in this House. The Taoiseach assured us on the Order of Business on two days that we would have a full debate on the then Government policy. However, it became tangled in an unholy mess over the weekend and the Progressive Democrats in the House — where they are seldom seen — and outside the House, where they are more prominent, decided that they were not happy because “the Minister had cut corners” as the Minister for Industry and Commerce said.
Meanwhile the Minister for Industry and Commerece — in the course of negotiations which took place by way of passing meetings in corridors — made  concessions. There are questions to be answered — and it is regrettable they were not answered in the course of this debate — as to the role or the non-role played by the Progressive Democrats in this whole farce.
Why has the Minister for Industry and Commerce refused to publish the report of the Fair Trade Commission in relation to the transfer of shares to Cablelink about which he made a big song and dance some six months ago? At that time he was intervening to stop the sale of Cablelink shares. He referred the matter to the Fair Trade Commission. From my inquiry in the Library this afternoon I learn he is now keeping that report confidential. He has the knowledge; he has the reservations; the rest of us are to be denied that knowledge. I call on the Minister for Industry and Commerce to publish the report of the Fair Trade Commission. Let us see what they recommended; let us see what reservations they have about the sale of Cablelink which is — whether or not it is denied in this House — the teeing-up of Telecom Éireann for a privatisation launch. Given that the Minister for Communications said two years ago, in 1988, that Century Radio would be standing on their own two feet and since he will not even deny that a privatisation launch has been set up, it would not surprise me were he back in this House within a year or two — if he is still in office — launching the privatisation of Telecom Éireann.
Indeed in relation to the conduct of the Progressive Democrats in this whole debate perhaps it is time for them to pack up their tents and leave. Either they will participate in Government or they will not; they will either conduct their business behind Cabinet doors, with collective responsibility, or they will not. Perhaps that is too much to expect from a party founded on an off-the-cuff remark on the part of their Leader, the Minister for Industry and Commerce — “up the Republic”. Now it is very much: “down with the Progressive Democrats” because they are not participating either in this House or in Government.
 The Minister himself said he was prepared to put his record in office, in ministerial portfolios, before the people. If there was a procedure under which the people of Ireland could vote tomorrow  on the Minister's attempted bailing out of Century Radio then the taxpayers would vote no confidence in the Minister.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 72.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Howlin and O'Shea; Níl, Deputies Gallagher and Clohessy.
Question declared lost.
Dáil Éireann 399 Private Members' Business. Confidence in Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications: Motion (Resumed).