Dáil Éireann - Volume 554 - 05 September, 2002

Business of Dáil: Motion.

  Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Ms Hanafin): I move:

    That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, or the Order of the Dáil of 27th June:

    (1) All divisions demanded in the House this week and next week shall be taken manually

    (2) Motion re. European Union Bill, 2001, shall be taken today, Thursday, 5th September, 2002, and shall be decided without debate

    (3) The following arrangements shall apply in relation to the Second and Remaining Stages of the Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002:

     (i) the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 10th September, 2002, and

    (ii) Committee, Report and Final Stages shall be taken on Wednesday, 11th September, 2002, and the proceedings thereon, shall, if not previously concluded be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m. by one Question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

    (4) Motion re. Statement for the Information of Voters shall be taken on Wednesday, 11th September, 2002, immediately upon the conclusion of the Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002, and shall be decided without debate.

  Mr. Kenny: I move amendment No. 1:

    To insert the following paragraph after paragraph (4):

      (5) That the Dáil shall sit on Friday, 6th September, 2002 from 10.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. for the purpose of debating the current state of the public finances and that following the [110]debate the Minister for Finance shall take questions for a period not exceeding one hour.

I move this amendment because last May the Minister for Finance indicated in writing to the nation that no cutbacks, secret or otherwise, were planned. We now find that the people have been taken for fools and that this Government has been re-elected on a platform of gross deception. As the House is in session to discuss the important matter of passing the Nice treaty referendum, we should also deal with the great uncertainty in people's minds about the state and management of the public finances, the forthcoming budget, the benchmarking process and the spiralling costs and wholesale cutbacks which are causing grave uncertainty and concern to hundreds of thousands of people. If this is not dealt with it means the Government is afraid to face the truth and is not in a position to make the decisions we were told would be made in the interest of the people.

  For that reason I move that the House sits tomorrow to discuss the deteriorating state of the public finances so that the grave uncertainty in people's minds can be clarified once and for all.

  Deputies: Hear, hear.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Quinn may speak to his own amendment. It is not necessary to move it at this stage.

  Mr. Quinn: Thank you, Sir; you are as helpful as ever.

  The House should not just sit tomorrow. We should start business and continue as is the norm after we complete the business which is ordered, the debate on the Nice treaty referendum, because due to the general election the House has sat for only 34 days so far this year. I will cite a number of the decisions made since 27 June but many more have already been made.

  Among the most damaging and revelatory are the cut of up to €42 million in the budget for overseas development aid; the cancellation of the contract for five medium lift helicopters for the Air Corps; the increase in the charge for accident and emergency visits and in the threshold for the drugs refund scheme; the putting on hold of 800 jobs in the health service; an increase of 18% in VHI rates; an increase of 69% in the registration charges for third level students and the withdrawal of €15 million from the treatment purchase scheme. This is just some of the array of cuts, reductions and increases in charges, all of which were deliberately concealed from the public by this Administration and by the Fianna Fáil Party and, I suspect, the Progressive Democrats if they knew what was going on, which is doubtful.

  For that reason, I want the House to resume business as quickly as possible in the normal way. It is our responsibility as elected representatives [111]to hold this Government to account and ensure it is answerable to the House.

  Mr. Sargent: This is just the tenth sitting since the general election so we have much catching up to do in terms of the business the country faces. I ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, and the Government to consider reconvening the Dáil without any further breaks because we have an appalling problem in the way this debate is being run where those opposed to the Treaty of Nice are operating under the grace and favour of those in its favour, which is a scandal. The Government should recognise that as the Treaty of Nice was democratically rejected, at the very least, those parties opposed to it should have some entitlement to speak rather than being dependent on the grace and favour of those who actually lost the referendum on the treaty.

  Mr. F. McGrath: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Sargent: There are other serious matters to address which the Taoiseach will know of having been in South Africa. There is an impending international crisis in terms of a possible conflict, perhaps involving the bombing of Iraq. The Government should allow the House debate the use of Shannon Airport by the US military in the context of that conflict. It behoves us as a parliament to have that matter debated and to have a decision made as was done in 1990. I hope that decision will be not to allow Shannon Airport to be used, but that is a matter for the House and it has not had an opportunity to debate or decide on it. It is timely that the issue arises in the context of the House's debate on the Treaty of Nice but it should not be confined within it; it should be debated in its own right. All we can do is use this debate for that purpose and that is not good enough.

  The Green Party has tabled a motion addressing the current crisis involving Sellafield where MOX fuel is being transported through the Irish Sea. Although it is welcome that the Naval Service and the Air Corps will be involved in its surveillance, it is vital that the Government establishes where liability rests if there was an accident involving that shipment.

  An Ceann Comhairle: A passing reference is acceptable but we cannot have a detailed discussion on this matter.

  Mr. Sargent: We could do so in the context of the wider debate but the opportunity for this and other parties to be involved in that debate is restricted. I ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, to take that on board. We do not have any facility to raise these matters other than by the Ceann Comhairle's grace and favour or depending on the grace and favour of the parties which lost the last referendum campaign.

[112]  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: My party and I are not prepared to agree to the motion because the Government has refused to recognise the outcome of the general election. It continues to refuse to respect the decision of the electorate on 17 May and the democratic mandate of all parties in this House. Sinn Féin is still refused proper recognition as a party under Standing Orders. We are denied speaking time as a party in our own right and must seek Government and Opposition time. Is it perhaps also the case that Fine Gael and the Labour Party are also refusing to respect this party's democratic mandate in the House?

  I bring it to the attention of Deputies that my Sinn Féin colleagues and I still have not been provided with adequate or appropriate office accommodation for ourselves and our staff more than three months after the general election. Two of our Deputies and two of our secretaries share an office designed for one Deputy and one secretary.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate for the Deputy to go into detail on these matters when we are discussing a motion.

  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Ceann Comhairle may not think it appropriate but I assure him that while this situation pertains where elected Members of the House are not being provided with proper office accommodation, although we have a situation—

  Mr. D. Ahern: There are four in my office.

  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: It is interesting to see who is laughing loudest. They have no difficulty accommodating their apparatchiks and every other hanger-on in terms of their own party's needs.

  Mr. D. Ahern: The Deputy and his party already have enough hangers-on.

  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Deputies of this House have a priority and a right to accommodation on this campus, but it is not currently being provided. Accordingly, I advise the House that we will not co-operate with the adoption of the motion.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is not in order. I call Deputy Joe Higgins.

  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: It is the belief of many Deputies that other parties are maintaining and holding accommodation that is surplus to their requirements and failing to release—

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is out of order and I ask him to resume his seat. I call Deputy Ring on a point of order.

  Mr. Ring: The House is sitting this week and it sat for one day in July. We have not had—

[113]  An Ceann Comhairle: That is not a point of order. I call Deputy Joe Higgins.

  Mr. Ring: It is a point of order. We have had no parliamentary questions—

  An Ceann Comhairle: That is not a point of order and the Deputy must find another way to raise the matter. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. I would like an orderly debate.

  Mr. J. Higgins: I strongly support the amendment that the Dáil sit tomorrow and for more time next week. The utter duplicity of the Government with regard to introducing a range of cuts in the public sector, which was completely covered up in the course of the election campaign, needs to be thoroughly discussed. That will be demanded by the ordinary people of this country.

  Regarding the debate on the Treaty of Nice, if current arrangements stand, ten minutes of a six hour debate will be granted to a group of Deputies comprising the Green Party, Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party and Independent Deputies. This is an incredible situation and I appeal directly to you, a Cheann Comhairle, to ensure, no matter what the rules of the Dáil state and in the spirit of democracy, that the substantial proportion of people who oppose the Treaty of Nice have a voice commensurate with that opposition in the Dáil during the course of the debate.

[114]  I ask the Ceann Comhairle to make representations to the Government to ensure the situation is rectified because the danger is that the “Yes” campaign is turning itself into a juggernaut which wants to ride over any opposition with scant regard to its democratic right to be heard. The colourfully-produced information guide arriving at every home—

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate for the Deputy to go into detail on this matter. He will have an opportunity to do so in the course of the debate.

  Mr. J. Higgins: It is a powerful advocate for a “Yes” vote even it is not overtly described as being in favour of the referendum. If the arrangements are to be allowed, our voices will be effectively silenced in the Dáil for the remainder of this debate or reduced to a meaningless amount of time. It will be a travesty of the democratic rights of the people.

  Amendment put.

  An Ceann Comhairle: In accordance with Standing Order 69(2), I must inform the House that it is not possible to conduct this division by electronic means and Members should now proceed to the lobbies where the division will be taken manually.

    Allen, Bernard.

    Boyle, Dan.

    Breen, Pat.

    Broughan, Thomas P.

    Bruton, Richard.

    Burton, Joan.

    Connaughton, Paul.

    Connolly, Paudge.

    Costello, Joe.

    Cowley, Jerry.

    Crawford, Seymour.

    Crowe, Seán.

    Deenihan, Jimmy.

    Durkan, Bernard J.

    Enright, Olwyn.

    Ferris, Martin.

    Gilmore, Eamon.

    Gogarty, Paul.

    Gormley, John.

    Harkin, Marian.

    Healy, Seamus.

    Higgins, Joe.

    Howlin, Brendan.

    Kenny, Enda.

    Lynch, Kathleen.

    McGinley, Dinny.

    McGrath, Finian.

    McGrath, Paul.

    Mitchell, Olivia.

    Morgan, Arthur.

    Naughten, Denis.

    Neville, Dan.

    Noonan, Michael.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.

    O'Dowd, Fergus.

    O'Shea, Brian.

    O'Sullivan, Jan.

    Pattison, Seamus.

    Penrose, Willie.

    Quinn, Ruairí.

    Rabbitte, Pat.

    Ring, Michael.

    Sargent, Trevor.

    Sherlock, Joe.

    Stagg, Emmet.

    Upton, Mary.

    Wall, Jack.

Níl

    Ahern, Dermot.

    Ahern, Michael.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Andrews, Barry.

    Ardagh, Seán.

    Blaney, Niall.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Brady, Martin.

    Callanan, Joe.

    Callely, Ivor.

    Carey, Pat.

    Cassidy, Donie.

    Collins, Michael.

    Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

    Coughlan, Mary.

    Cowen, Brian.[115]

Níl–continued

    Cregan, John.

    Curran, John.

    Davern, Noel.

    de Valera, Síle.

    Dempsey, Noel.

    Dempsey, Tony.

    Dennehy, John.

    Devins, Jimmy.

    Ellis, John.

    Finneran, Michael.

    Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

    Fleming, Seán.

    Gallagher, Pat The Cope.

    Glennon, Jim.

    Grealish, Noel.

    Hanafin, Mary.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Healy-Rae, Jackie.

    Hoctor, Máire.

    Keaveney, Cecilia.

    Kelleher, Billy.

    Kelly, Peter.

    Killeen, Tony.

    Kirk, Seamus.

    McCreevy, Charlie.

    McDowell, Michael.

[116]    McEllistrim, Thomas.

    Moloney, John.

    Moynihan, Donal.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Nolan, M. J.

    O'Connor, Charlie.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    O'Dea, Willie.

    O'Donnell, Liz.

    O'Donoghue, John.

    O'Donovan, Denis.

    Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.

    O'Flynn, Noel.

    O'Keeffe, Ned.

    O'Malley, Fiona.

    O'Malley, Tim.

    Parlon, Tom.

    Power, Peter.

    Power, Seán.

    Ryan, Eoin.

    Sexton, Mae.

    Smith, Brendan.

    Wallace, Dan.

    Wilkinson, Ollie.

    Woods, Michael.

    Wright, G. V.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Durkan and Stagg; Níl, Deputies Hanafin and S. Power.

  Amendment declared lost.

  Mr. Quinn: I move amendment No. 2:

    To insert the following paragraph after paragraph (4):

      “(5) That the Dáil on its rising on Wednesday, 11th September, 2002, shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 17th September, 2002, for the purpose of dealing with such business as the Dáil may order.”

  Amendment put and declared lost.

  Question put: “That the motion be agreed to.”

    Ahern, Dermot.

    Ahern, Michael.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Andrews, Barry.

    Ardagh, Seán.

    Blaney, Niall.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Brady, Martin.

    Callanan, Joe.

    Callely, Ivor.

    Carey, Pat.

    Cassidy, Donie.

    Collins, Michael.

    Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

    Coughlan, Mary.

    Cowen, Brian.

    Cregan, John.

    Curran, John.

    de Valera, Síle.

    Dempsey, Noel.

    Dempsey, Tony.

    Dennehy, John.

    Devins, Jimmy.

    Ellis, John.

    Finneran, Michael.

    Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

    Fleming, Seán.

    Gallagher, Pat The Cope.

    Glennon, Jim.

    Grealish, Noel.

    Hanafin, Mary.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Healy-Rae, Jackie.

    Hoctor, Máire.

    Keaveney, Cecilia.

    Kelleher, Billy.

    Kelly, Peter.

    Killeen, Tony.

    Kirk, Seamus.

    McCreevy, Charlie.

    McDowell, Michael.

    McEllistrim, Thomas.

    Moloney, John.

    Moynihan, Donal.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Nolan, M. J.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.

    O'Connor, Charlie.

    O'Dea, Willie.

    O'Donnell, Liz.

    O'Donoghue, John.

    O'Donovan, Denis.

    O'Flynn, Noel.

    O'Keeffe, Ned.

    O'Malley, Fiona.

    O'Malley, Tim.

    Power, Peter.

    Power, Seán.

    Ryan, Eoin.

    Sexton, Mae.

    Smith, Brendan.

    Wilkinson, Ollie.

    Woods, Michael.

    Wright, G. V.

    

[117]

Níl

    Boyle, Dan.

    Crowe, Seán.

    Ferris, Martin.

    Gogarty, Paul.

    Gormley, John.

    Harkin, Marian.

    Healy, Seamus.

[118]    Higgins, Joe.

    McGrath, Finian.

    Morgan, Arthur.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.

    Sargent, Trevor.

    

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and S. Power; Níl, Deputies Boyle and Ó Snodaigh.

  Question declared carried.