Seanad Éireann - Volume 73 - 20 December, 1972

Appointment of Delegates to the Assembly of European Communities: Motion.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Tairgim:

Go ndéanfar agus go ndéantar leis seo—

Na Teachtaí

Conchubhar Crús Ó Briain,

Aontoine Easmann,

Mícheál Hoireabard,

Mícheál Hilliard,

Saerbhreathach Céitinn,

Tomás Ó Nualláin agus

Risteard Ó Riain

agus

Na Seanadóirí

Cathal Mac Domhnaill,

Feargal Mac Giolla Ghunna

agus Mícheál Yeats

a cheapadh, amhail ar agus ón lú lá d'Eanáir, 1973, chun bheith ina dtoscairí chun Tionól na gComhphobal Eorpach.

I move:

Deputies

Conor Cruise-O'Brien,

Sir Anthony C. Esmonde,

Michael Herbert,

Michael Hilliard,

Justin Keating,

Thomas Nolan and

Richie Ryan

and

Senators

Charles B. McDonald,

Farrell McElgunn and

Michael B. Yeats

[1461] be and are hereby designated, as on and from the 1st day of January, 1973, delegates to the Assembly of the European Communities.

Mr. Horgan: I should like to speak very briefly on this motion dealing with the designation of delegates to the Assembly of the European Communities. I should like to express my deep dissatisfaction with the procedure which has been adopted, in so far as I understand it and in so far as it can even legitimately be called procedure, to bring this motion before the House. I make my objection with no sense of personal pique. I have more than enough to do in this House and outside it without wanting to be appointed by this Parliament to membership of the European Assembly. Anybody who studies the background, history and nature of the Assembly to which we are now being asked to send people will realise that it is not a case of “all perk and no work”. There are a minimum of six sessions of the Assembly in the parliamentary year. There are usually at least two more. This adds up to approximately 50 sitting days. In addition to these sittings there are also committee meetings. Almost every member of the European Assembly is a member of at least one and possibly more committees which may bring his total of sitting days up by another 50. When travel is added to the 100 days that one has already arrived at by this method of calculation one realises that it is a very substantial commitment. Personally, I could not undertake such a commitment. I would like to underline the fact that my objection to this motion is based on no sense of personal dissatisfaction or a feeling of having been left out.

I should like to make a correction in something that I said earlier today. When I proposed that No. 19 be taken together with this motion, the Leader of the House informed us that the reason why it could not be taken was that it could be discussed with the European Communities Bill. My recollection—unless it is very unsatisfactory—is that, when the same proposal was made during the debate on the European Communities Bill, the [1462] Leader of the House said it would not be appropriate to take No. 19 then. I put his earlier remarks down to a faulty memory of the occasion, and, had my memory not been equally faulty, he would not have got away with it, but——

Tomás Ó Maoláin: My memory is very good, thank God.

Mr. Horgan: ——I believe the House has been misled. We were not allowed to discuss this motion with the European Communities Bill because of the attitude adopted by the other side of the House.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: I distinctly said to Senator Robinson, in the course of the debate on the European Communities Bill, that we would not take the motion then because there was no reason why she could not make all her points on it during the debate on the Bill. This is recorded in the Official Report. My memory is very good. And I did not say today that we could not take the motion; I said we would not take it.

Mr. Horgan: It seems the Leader of the House is adopting in this matter a “Heads I win, tails you lose” attitude.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: I do not gamble.

Mr. Horgan: This is the last opportunity in this particular session on which we would have had an oppropriate opportunity to discuss this motion. By indicating that it would not be taken at this particular time, the Government is portraying a sense of insecurity about the procedure adopted, a sense of insecurity which is well justified.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: If the Senator looks at the list of persons nominated he will see that there are more than the Government implicated.

Mr. Horgan: Yes. I am prepared to listen to contributions from all sides of the House.

Mr. Boland: I do not like the word “implicated”. “Implicated” is hardly the most appropriate word.

[1463] Mr. Horgan: I had an immediate feeling of alarm when I first studied the list of names presented to us at the thought that you yourself, as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, should be a member of this group of delegates. I since learned from reading the newspapers that we may have a new Cathaoirleach of the Seanad in the New Year. If this is true it considerably mitigates the force of my objection. I felt that, unless this were the case, I could not in conscience vote for a delegation which included you, having already voted in favour of your being Cathaoirleach of this House.

We have had no official intimation of the state of affairs which may exist in January. The proprieties might have been observed had you resigned from your position as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad before the passing of this motion, so that in voting for it and for you as one of its members, I would have none of the problems associated with voting for a motion which names you at a time when you are still Cathaoirleach of this House. This is a minor point but it should be made with reference to the priorities of the occasion.

My main objection to this particular motion is not one aimed solely at the Government party, as Senator Mullins will be glad to hear, but one levelled at the procedure adopted to produce this list of names. The relevant Article of the Rome Treaty is Article 138 which reads:

The assembly shall consist of delegates who shall be designated by the respective Parliaments from among their members in accordance with the procedure laid down by each Member State.

It seems to me, on a basic reading of Article 138, that what we are being asked here today is to designate the delegates in accordance with Article 138. I have no objection to this House designating delegates. It is important that the Houses of the Oireachtas should take part in this process of ratification. I draw your attention again to the latter half of this particular Article:

Designation should take place in [1464] accordance with the procedure laid down by each Member State.

I am not aware of any procedure laid down here for the nomination of delegates. If one exists, it is obscure and has not been made public. What I am given to understand, unofficially, is that this list is the result of an agreement between the Whips or other representatives of the three major parties represented in these two Houses. If this is the case, it is quite obvious that what we have before us is not the result of a procedure laid down by the State but of a carve-up, an between the major interest groups in these two Houses. It is a carve-up, an indelicate word for an indelicate operation and my criticism is aimed as much at the Opposition parties as it is at the Government party.

I draw your attention again to the concluding words of the Article which refers to “a procedure laid down by each Member State”. A constitutional lawyer might have difficulty in interpreting this section, but he would have no difficulty in concluding that it had not been complied with in the present case.

I am sorry that Senator John Kelly is not here. I would have been delighted to hear his definition of “the State”. Whatever definition he would give us, he would not regard a small meeting of persons from the three main political parties in a back room as in any way co-extensive with “the State”. It is for this reason that I seriously doubt whether the appropriate procedure laid down under Article 138 has been followed. I believe the procedure which was followed is improper. It may even be, from the point of view of the European Assembly, invalid. I would remind the House that the European Assembly is very conscious, like all assemblies, of its own privileges. It has the right to check the credentials of all delegates sent to its organisation. I do not want to raise a hare about this matter, but I would not weep any tears if the Council of Europe sent back a very stiff reminder to this Parliament of the provisions of Article 138 and asked it to make sure that they were adequately followed in future. It may be that the list of names which [1465] was produced by a more appropriate procedure—for example, that outlined in No. 19 on the Order Paper of today —would be exactly the same, but this is not the point. If we are to have adequate representation in Europe and if people are to know what this involves we cannot have any more backstairs manoeuvring before the names are suddenly sprung on us.

When Mr. Harold Macmillan resigned as leader of the Conservative Party in Britain many of us watched with some amusement, not unmixed with trepidation, the curious process of consultation which contributed to the eventual evolution of his successor, Sir Alec Douglas Home. The processes of consultations which have resulted in this list are no more decorous than the processes in that case. This should be openly stated and the attention of the European Assembly should be directed to it.

Having said that, it is only fair to state that we are not the worst in Europe in this respect. If we look at some of the procedures which were adopted in other Parliaments they are, in some cases, more creditable and, in some cases, less creditable than ours. One thing the less creditable ones have in common is that they feature a binding together of centre parties, of consensus parties, against smaller parties, more especially against parties of the Left. The classic example of this was in the case of Italy where the Italian Communist Party, although the second largest party in the Italian Parliament, was for many years, and until comparatively recently, excluded deliberately from the European Assembly. A similar position obtained in France where at least one party, who have 7 per cent of the seats, are excluded by the centre parties from representation in the European Assembly.

This shows that we are not the worst in the world. However, if we were to adopt a similar way of nominating delegates it might be, for example, that the Labour Party might find themselves completely excluded. That is a situation which nobody here would welcome. I feel very strongly that we have missed an opportunity to [1466] show, by a public and carefully scrutinised method of selecting delegates, that we are really selecting delegates of the people and not delegates of the political parties.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Thanks be to God, the European Assembly is not composed of 400 or 500 members with a mentality like that.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator, if he speaks now, would be replying. I think Senator West wishes to speak.

Dr. West: I wish to oppose this motion on the grounds that there is no Independent representation for Ireland in the European Parliament. I should like to extend my best wishes to the delegates who have been chosen and whose names are listed on this motion but, like Senator Horgan, I am trying to avoid personal issues. I believe it is a great pity that the Independents have not been represented in our delegation to Europe.

I now wish to give the numerical facts. We have ten representatives in Europe. They were to be chosen from the 204 seats in the two Houses of the Oireachtas. Of those 204 seats at present the Fianna Fáil Party occupy 101 seats so on a ratio of one seat in Europe per 20 Members they are entitled to have five Members on this list. The Fine Gael Party have 66 Members in both Houses of the Oireachtas and they are, therefore, entitled to 3.3 seats in Europe. The Labour Party have 21 Members in the Houses of the Oireachtas and they are entitled to 1.01 seats in Europe. That is one seat plus the one-hundredth part of a seat. The Independents have 13 Members in both Houses of the Oireachtas and Aontacht Éireann have one Member. Consequently, the Independents are entitled to .65 of a seat and Aontacht Éireann to .05 of a seat.

My protest is quite clear. The Fianna Fáil Party and the Fine Gael Party are, mathematically speaking, represented correctly but the Labour Party have no argument for two Members in Europe. I would like to say that the two Members nominated by the Labour Party are excellent men who will do a splendid job but the principle at stake [1467] is the principle of representation. There are 13 Independents in both Houses and I feel that they should have been asked to nominate a representative. I know at least one Independent, and probably two Independents, who would have been prepared to go to Europe and to make the sacrifices and efforts involved. Even if one recognises the fact that three of the 13 Independents might be classified as involuntary Independents, there are eight Independents in this House and that alone would entitle us to representation in Europe.

The Independents in this House make a contribution to all the debates. It may not always please the other parties, but it is not meant to. They are Independents and, therefore, they have a certain freedom which they are entitled to use. I think they make a valuable contribution. There is a type of consensus among them and I think that the effort the Independents make in Parliament, and particularly in this House, should have been recognised and rewarded by giving them a place on the delegation to the European Parliament.

I am glad to note that the Seanad with its 60 Members has got three representatives on this delegation. That figure is exactly right. I am also glad to note that the substitutes for the Members on this list— their names do not appear on this motion—also include Members of the Seanad but again I am disappointed that the Independents were not given the opportunity of nominating a Member to sit in the European Parliament or to act as a substitute. This, as Senator Horgan has said, is a readyup between the parties. The Independent's difficulty is that they are not in an organisational position to make much of a protest. They have to rely on the goodwill of the parties something which is clearly not being extended to them. I would ask that, when further European Committees are being appointed—for example, the committee which deals with the European Parliamentary business as far as the two Houses of the Oireachtas are concerned—Independents be represented on them. There are Independents [1468] who have a special interest in Europe; there are Independents who are prepared to do the work, prepared to make the effort and who would certainly make a real contribution. I hope that when these committees are being set up Independent representation will not be overlooked, and that the work which Independent Members do will be recognised and that they will obtain places on all these committees.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: I do not think there is any need for me to say much about this. Independent Members of this Seanad should realise that there is such a thing as the rights of the majority. We hear a lot of whining from Independents about the parties and about ready-ups between parties, but the Independents must realise that the parties represent the majority of the Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas; the parties represent the majority opinion of the majority of the electorate. As such, the parties which are sneered at have rights; the majority have rights.

Dr. West: On a point of information, on this argument there would be ten Fianna Fáil representatives in Europe.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: That is the majority—an overall majority—Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour, as represented by organised groups. If Senator Horgan and Senator West feel so far out in the wilderness about the role of the Independents, the way to get in on this act in a big way is to join political parties. There are three very good parties in the Seanad.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Boland: Senator Horgan left your party; he was in your party.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: So far as the role of the Independents is concerned. I should like to have it recorded— because judging by this sort of talk, one would imagine that the majority parties were persecuting the Independents at all times—that no later than this year, Senator Horgan was appointed by the Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and [1469] Labour Parties as a representative on an international delegation to the inter-Parliamentary Union Congress in Rome, and he attended it. The Independents were represented on that international delegation.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. West: Why not on this one?

An Cathaoirleach: Senators must not interrupt.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Nobody is questioning the contributions which they make, but they must get it into their heads that the majority have rights and the majority are going to insist on these rights.

Dr. West: I should just like to make a point——

An Cathaoirleach: I am afraid that the debate has concluded.

Question put and declared carried.