Dáil Éireann - Volume 402 - 13 November, 1990

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Inauguration of President-elect.

12. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the arrangements for the inauguration of the President-elect; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach: The Inauguration will take place at 12 noon on 3 December 1990 in St. Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle, [1127] when the Taoiseach will request the Chief Justice to administer the Declaration of Office, prescribed by the Constitution, to the President-elect who will enter into office by taking and subscribing publicly to the declaration in the presence of members of the Government, members of the Council of State, Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, members of the Judiciary, and other public personages as the Constitution also prescribes.

As in 1983, the heads of the main religious denominations are being invited to start the proceedings with an inter-denominational Service of Prayer. The Government will host a State Reception in Dublin Castle on the evening of December 3 at which the new President will be the guest of honour.

Proinsias De Rossa: Let me preface my question by saying I am sure the Taoiseach and the rest of the House will join with me in congratulating the new President on her success.

The Taoiseach: I have already done so.

Proinsias De Rossa: I am well aware of that. Would the Taoiseach consider, in view of the widespread public interest and indeed excitement at the election of President Mary Robinson, having Monday, 3 December declared a public holiday so that the people of the country could assemble in the Phoenix Park perhaps——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should put down a question on that subject.

Proinsias De Rossa: A Cheann Comhairle, I have asked questions in relation to the arrangements for the inauguration. This is connected with that. I am asking if the Taoiseach would consider that. Would he also indicate if any Heads of State are being invited to attend, in view of the fact that there is widespread international interest in the election of a woman to be President of Ireland; and [1128] indeed if perhaps the President of the European Commission or the European Council would be invited?

The Taoiseach: I do not know that we should be going into these matters here. I am anxious to follow precedent and I am also very anxious to keep all this out of the political arena. The Deputy can be assured that the Government will do everything necessary and adequate to ensure that these ceremonies and the installation of the President are conducted with all possible dignity and decorum, doing honour to the office.

Proinsias De Rossa: I am sure there is nothing I have said that would imply that the Taoiseach would do otherwise. I am quite certain that the Taoiseach has always, in his public utterances and activities, acted with dignity. The question does arise, in view of the fact that this is the first President elected in the last 17 years and we are into a new era, as it were, in Irish politics, that there has been considerable public interest internationally and nationally. I am asking the Taoiseach to consider the suggestions I have made with regard to a public holiday——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has already made that point effectively.

Proinsias De Rossa: ——and with regard to inviting Heads of State of other countries.

An Ceann Comhairle: You may not embark on a speech.

Proinsias De Rossa: I am not making a speech. I am asking the Taoiseach if he would indicate that he would consider these matters in view of the points I have referred to.

The Taoiseach: My intention is to follow precedent as closely as possible.

Proinsias De Rossa: Would the Taoiseach consider at some stage in the near [1129] future inviting the new President to address both Houses of the Oireachtas?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is raising a lot of extraneous matters.

Mr. McGinley: I understand that on previous occasions when newly elected Presidents were being inaugurated, schools in the country were closed. Will the same precedent be followed on this occasion?

The Taoiseach: I deplore this practice of bringing the President, the Office and these arrangements into the House. Deputies are entitled to ask these questions but I would really appeal for some reticence in this whole area. Let us not have a political discussion about the arrangements, for heaven's sake.

Mr. McGinley: It is not political. We are just looking for information.

The Taoiseach: All these arrangements are being considered at the moment very carefully and very closely by myself and my advisers with a view to doing things absolutely right.

Mr. Quinn: Arising from the Taoiseach's reply, with which I fully sympathise, perhaps the Taoiseach's Department or himself might consider informing the Leaders of the various parties or perhaps consulting them in an appropriate manner so that the best possible arrangements for all the parties involved can be arrived at in the right way and in the right place.

The Taoiseach: There never has been a problem about it so far.

Mr. Quinn: No, and I do not think there will be.

Mr. Rabbitte: The Taoiseach referred to keeping an eye on his Ministers. Would he envisage a situation, having regard to recent events, where perhaps he may have to visit the new President before Christmas with his seal of office?

[1130] An Ceann Comhairle: Let us have another question. This is quite out of order.

The Taoiseach: I did not get that point but if it is an attempt to be contentious I shall reply in kind.