Dáil Éireann - Volume 446 - 02 November, 1994

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Foreign Visits.

1. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the number of occasions that both he and the Tánaiste were out of the country simultaneously since the present Government took office; if he will give details of the periods in question; the [1447] procedures, if any, that are put in place when such is the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2045/94]

The Taoiseach: Since 19 October 1993, when I replied to a similar question, the Tánaiste and I were out of the country simultaneously on Government business on 12 occasions.

These included three meetings in London with the British Prime Minister, three European Council meetings in Brussels and one in Corfu.

Throughout these periods, both the Tánaiste and I remained in charge of, and in direct contact with, our Departments at all times. In accordance with long standing practice, it was not necessary to assign our duties and functions during our absence to other members of the Government.

As I stated when I took office, and reiterated in this House only last week, I intend, along with the Tánaiste and other Ministers, to promote increased trade, expand inward tourism and encourage international investment in Ireland by actively seeking out and addressing potential investors, on a personal basis where necessary. The year 1994 will be one of our most successful years for tourism, exports and inward investment, bringing with it 30,000 more people at work in the 12 months up to April 1994. There are now more people at work than at any time in the past 40 years. Getting foreign businesses to set up here cannot be achieved by a small peripheral nation like ours by simply sitting at home and waiting for the world to knock on our door. I make no apology for pursuing this strategy and I intend continuing to do so in the national interest.

Mr. J. Higgins: Would the Taoiseach not agree that in any successful enterprise the chief executive should be present as much as possible and that when he cannot be present at least his second in command should be on the [1448] spot? Would he not agree that for 12 periods, some of these extended, when both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste were out of the country the ship of state was left rudderless, with no captain and a rather poor crew on board?

The Taoiseach: Perhaps it was sentiments like those expressed by Deputy Higgins that left us with a bad economy between 1983 and 1987. I do not accept the Deputy's implication. He is well aware that the number of summits in London, Brussels and elsewhere has increased significantly, necessitating ministerial and, indeed, prime ministerial travel, and we will continue to serve the best interests of this nation abroad as we have always done.

Mr. J. Higgins: Would the Taoiseach not agree that there is a clear conflict between the role of Tánaiste and that of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and that if one is to do the job of Tánaiste as defined in the Constitution and in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, the one Ministry the Tánaiste should not have is that of Foreign Affairs because of the absences involved?

The Taoiseach: The Constitution does not contain any provision that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste may not be absent from the country at the same time. They have together attended functions abroad in the past, not alone in this Government but in previous Governments, and will continue to do so.

Miss Harney: Does the Taoiseach think it desirable that he and the Tánaiste should not be absent from the country at the same time? Do the programme managers in his Department and those in the Tánaiste's office seek to co-ordinate their diaries to make sure that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste are not unnecessarily abroad at the same time?

The Taoiseach: We try to avoid that where possible and will continue to do [1449] so. On any analysis of this, I see that we have overlapped for a day at times. Sometimes it is not possible but, where it is, we will keep such occasions to a minimum.