Seanad Éireann - Volume 80 - 30 April, 1975

Adjournment of Seanad.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Nearly six hours of the time for debate today has been occupied by one Fianna Fáil Senator who signalled some time ago that it would be the object of Fianna Fáil to obstruct the passage of this Bill.

Mr. Yeats: I move:

That Seanad Éireann do now adjourn until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

Mr. McGlinchey: Could I have the source of that quotation?

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is entitled to rise on a point of order. If he wishes to make a categorical statement that he did not say that, it [848] will be accepted by the House. Is the Senator making that statement?

Mr. McGlinchey: I would like Senator O'Higgins, who lectured me a few minutes ago about the source of a statement I made, to quote exactly where I said there would be obstruction.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Many of us spent a long time listening to the Senator today. Perhaps he would listen as best he can to what I said. I did not purport to quote the Senator, I said he signalled that it was the object of Fianna Fáil to obstruct the passage of this Bill. I have no doubt whatever that anyone who heard or read the Senator's speech would have taken the same view.

Mr. Killilea: That is an opinion.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I wish to express another opinion. The Minister showed unusual courtesy to the Senator by listening for five-and-a-half hours to what the Senator said.

Mr. McGlinchey: The Minister was not here for five-and-a-half hours. If Senator O'Higgins had been here he would know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach was here for an hour-and-a-half.

Mr. Yeats: And took a considerable part in the proceedings.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: The Minister's courtesy was no less diminished by the fact that he was saved an hour-and-a-half from listening to Senator McGlinchey.

Mr. Killilea: On a point of order, that is not true. I think the Minister is quite ignorant to walk out of the House.

An Cathaoirleach: There can be no discussion. We have a motion for the adjournment. Senators should only rise on the motion for the adjournment when their turn comes, or else rise on a genuine point of order.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: So far as the motion is concerned, the point I am [849] making is that nearly six hours of today's discussion were occupied by one Fianna Fáil Senator who, in my view—and I repeat—had already signalled the intention to obstruct the passage of this Bill. It is scandalous that the time of the House should be wasted in such a manner and that a Bill which Senator Yeats describes as “serious and important” should be obstructed by a filibuster of the type we have been forced to witness today.

We would object to further time being consumed by shortening the proceedings today as Senator Yeats suggests. For that reason it is incumbent on the Members of the Seanad, in view of the amount of time that has been taken, to carry on with the discussion tonight.

It is also right to say at this stage that, in view of the fact that one Fianna Fáil Senator has already consumed six hours of discussion—the equivalent time which would be allocated to the discussion of a motion in the House—it will now be impossible to adhere to the arrangements made to take a motion tomorrow. It will be necessary to continue with the discussion of this Bill tomorrow.

Senators may recall that, when announcing the arrangements made for the taking of the motion tomorrow, I made it clear that it was subject to the exigencies of Government business. Senator McGlinchey has succeeded by his obstruction tactics in excluding discussion of the motion which we had hoped to take tomorrow.

Mr. Killilea: That seems very strange. I have been a Member of this House since 1969 and have never witnessed such ignorance by any Minister of any Government. When introducing this Bill, he said it was of major importance. He said it was so important that it was filibustered out of the Dáil and into this House.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator should not comment on the proceedings in another place in such terms.

Mr. Killilea: The Bill was so important that we were asked to sit [850] three days or, if necessary, four days a week to deal with it. It is of major importance to the Government and to the Fianna Fáil Party. Does the Minister think it fit and mannerly to walk out in protest when Senator McGlinchey is making his contribution? I do not. This leads me to wonder if this Bill is as important as the Government says.

Senator McGlinchey's contribution to the Bill has not been repetitious. He has not been told by the Cathaoirleach that he was repetitious in any statement he made. He has made a wonderful contribution on the Bill and pointed out the anomalies in it. If the Minister and the Government decide that they have not got the guts to listen to the facts, then I feel that the utterances of the Leader of the House and the manner in which the Minister was so ignorant as to walk out of this House shows nothing less than contempt for this House.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is wandering a bit far from the question of the adjournment.

Mr. Killilea: The Minister rose from his seat quite ignorantly and walked from this House. I ask the Cathaoirleach and some of the long-serving Members on either side of this House or indeed outside of this House to give one instance in the history of this nation where a Minister of State who was introducing a Bill in either House of the Oireachtas rose and walked out during a contribution of a Member. I want this matter to be dealt with with a positive approach, and if the Government side cannot digest this Bill and if they think that by walking out of this House or walking out of any of the Houses of the Oireachtas they are doing justice to this Bill or to the people whom they represent in a poor way, I suggest that this ignorant performance by the Minister for Justice, obviously connived at by the Government, is nothing short of contempt of democracy. They attempt to preach democracy in this House but the manner in which the Minister has left this House, whether it be to attend a [851] function or for some other matter without—as we have now discovered —having listened to the contribution —the good contribution—of Senator McGlinchey on this Bill; a contribution which has enlightened me on points which had not occurred to me and which obviously had not occurred to the Minister or the Leader of the House or to either Party on the Government side of the House—displayed nothing less than ignorance on his part. It is creating a precedent in this House which, in time, will destroy democracy as we know it.

I reiterate that never in the history of this State to the best of my knowledge—contradict me if I am wrong —has a Minister shown such contempt of this House and of the Cathaoirleach by rising quite ignorantly and walking from the seat he should now be occupying.

They call it a filibuster. There was no intention of filibustering and there has not been any filibuster. One can say that Senator McGlinchey has been very constructive in his approach and he is entitled, as an elected Member of this House, to make that approach. This matter should be reported to the Committee who are responsible for this——

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: May I rise on a point of order? I wish to call the attention of the Chair to the fact that we are now discussing a Fianna Fáil motion. It is their obligation to keep a House. We do not have one.

Mr. McGlinchey: We have noticed the Whip going around to get them all to move out. We were watching the performance.

Notice taken that 12 Members were not present: House counted and 12 Members being present,

Mr. McGlinchey: On a point of order, do I take it that the Clerk of the Seanad has instructed the Leader of the House that it is the Government's function to provide the House and they have, accordingly, obliged? [852] Do I take it that the procedure of the House has been explained to the Leader of the House?

An Cathaoirleach: That is not a point of order, and it was most improper for the Senator to make any reference to what the Clerk of the House does in the performance of his duty.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: In fairness to the House, I should make it quite clear that the Clerk of the House did not speak one word to me in relation to this matter.

Mr. McGlinchey: Have the Fine Gael Party discovered the rules in the last few seconds?

Mr. Killilea: To conclude, let me say that obviously the Government side are not accustomed to Government and they have shown it here tonight by this despicable display. Their Minister is not accustomed to being a Minister and he has shown that by his despicable display. Let them be judged by the nation on their performance on this Bill that is so obnoxious that they cannot even listen to the facts and the contents of it.

An Cathaoirleach: The question has been adverted to by both sides of the House. I should like to make it clear that under Standing Orders it is the business of the House to keep a House. That is all that is provided for. Senator Quinlan on the Adjournment.

Professor Quinlan: Senator Killilea has been here since 1969. I have been here since 1957 and I think this filibustering performance by Senator McGlinchey is the worst I have seen in that period. Accordingly, I ask leave to move as an amendment to the motion that has been moved that this House sit until Senator McGlinchey concludes his contribution.

Mr. McCartin: It has been said that the Minister left the House in a manner which has been described as “ignorant”—whatever that means. The Minister left the House very conscious [853] of the fact that he was elected to do a very important duty in office, to use his time to the best advantage in the service of this country, to use the legislative procedure at his disposal to the best advantage. For all of this day the Minister wasted the time of his office listening to a contribution that was repetitive, mostly irrelevant——

Mr. Killilea: On a point of order, the Senator was in the Chair himself and did he once call Senator McGlinchey to order for repetition?

Mr. McCartin: ——and on many ocasions—what was most unforgiveable—most damaging to the cause of democracy, most damaging to the cause of Irish unity which Senator McGlinchey professes to be concerned about.

Mr. Garrett: Did the Minister inform Senator McCartin of what was in his mind or is Senator McCartin reading the Minister's mind, or how does he know all this information?

Mr. McCartin: Senator McGlinchey is judging a responsible Minister, a Minister whose actions are predictable in view of the fact that he is a responsible man.

Mr. Yeats: Predictable?

Mr. McCartin: What I was going to say about Senator McGlinchey's contribution was that what was most unforgiveable was the fact that the speech for 90 per cent of the time was provocative to the minority in this country and the majority in Northern Ireland, the people whom Senator McGlinchey proposes to call our brothers.

Mr. Killilea: That is your opinion.

Mr. McCartin: The police force in the six counties whom he calls the scum of the earth——

An Cathaoirleach: If Senator McCartin wishes to resume I would be glad to hear him on the adjournment, relating his remarks specifically to the adjournment.

[854] Mr. McCartin: I want to say that the Minister, by listening to the sort of contribution we heard here today, was not rendering any service to democracy. By participating in the sort of proceedings we participated in today we were downgrading democracy. I was ashamed to look at the Public Gallery and that the young people of Ireland should see people who have responsibilities——

Mr. Killilea: Senator McCartin should be ashamed of himself. He thinks he is a genius with his pious religious beliefs.

Mr. Lenihan: On a point of order, the motion before the Seanad is proposed by Senator Yeats.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Lenihan: The motion is a very practical and a proper one moved by Senator Yeats, that we adjourn one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, on the basis of the unwarranted departure by the Minister for Justice on only the third day of the Second Stage debate in which a contribution was being made by a Senator. Without reason the Minister walked out of the House and refused to listen further to Senator McGlinchey's contribution.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I understood that we were on the adjournment motion.

Mr. Lenihan: On the basis of that unwarranted withdrawal, Senator Yeats moved that we adjourn. We want to conduct the proceedings in a proper way and there is no point——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Lenihan: There is no point in Senator McCartin and Senator O'Higgins making judgments on the contribution made by Senator McGlinchey.

An Cathaoirleach: I take the point of order that we are on the motion on the adjournment and that therefore the remarks of Senator McCartin were out of order. The Chair has heard, since the opening of the adjournment [855] debate, arguments which were made as being in order on the grounds that the Minister's departure was unwarranted. These were allowed by the Chair. Consequently arguments to the effect that the Minister's departure was not unwarranted would be equally in order.

Mr. McCartin: May I resume in defence of the Minister who has been attacked in his absence?

Mr. Killilea: Defend yourself.

Mr. McCartin: Senator Lenihan has asked us to cut out this nonsense. agree, and I wish Senator Lenihan had been here all day so that he could have intervened to stop the nonsense to which we were all subjected for the last six hours. I think the Minister left the Chamber because he was ashamed of the shameless use of parliamentary time, of the shameless denial——

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is now going beyond what would be relevant to the motion on the adjournment. The position is that there is a motion “That the Seanad do now adjourn”. Senator Yeats is to specify a time——

Mr. Yeats: Forthwith.

An Cathaoirleach: Until?

Mr. Yeats: Tomorrow morning.

Mr. Keegan: Are you allowing any further comments on the motion?

An Cathaoirleach: I am trying to tell the House what the matters before the House are and some Senators seem to have difficulty in grasping this. I take it then that the motion by Senator Yeats is that the Seanad——

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: The question before the House is “That Seanad Éireann do now adjourn until 10.30 tomorrow morning.”

Mr. Yeats: Adjourn forthwith.

[856] Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: In view of the fact that there are five minutes left I am prepared to accept that.

An Cathaoirleach: There is an amendment by Senator Quinlan to delete “now” and to add at the end of the motion “when Senator McGlinchey has concluded his contribution”. Is there a seconder to Senator Quinlan's amendment?

Mr. Killilea: I am sure one of his colleagues on the Fine Gael side will help him out.

An Cathaoirleach: The amendment lapses and accordingly there is the motion “That Seanad Éireann do now adjourn until 10.30 tomorrow morning.” Is that agreed?

Mr. Lenihan: I am trying to induce some order into the proceedings with the help of the Cathaoirleach. There is no point in pushing this motion to a vote unless we know what business we have in the morning. It is important to know from the Leader of the House what business we have for the morning.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I did not propose this motion. If Senator Yeats's leader tells Senator Yeats that there is no point in putting this motion to a vote, do not look at me. I did not move it.

Mr. Yeats: As I understand the position, the Leader of the House said he agrees to adjourn and we might just as well do so since it is three minutes to ten. At this stage therefore, as with every adjournment, we come to the question of what we are doing tomorrow. I would express the hope that the Leader of the House was not really expressing a definite judgment about the position tomorrow. I would hope that he would by now have reconsidered his suggestion that this motion on education will not be taken tomorrow. I would point out to him that a considerable number of Senators, by no means all of them Members of my party, are very interested in this [857] motion. It is a matter of great importance and of great public interest. It has already been ordered. Senators will come in in the morning expecting it to be taken.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: And it has been scuttled by Senator McGlinchey.

Mr. Killilea: Scuttled by the Minister.

Mr. Yeats: I would put it to the Leader of the House that even if Senator McGlinchey had spoken for a considerably less time than he has, we would not have finished the Second Reading of the Bill today. Therefore there is no question of the business having been held for tomorrow on the basis that the Second Reading of the Bill would be finished today.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: No business has been ordered for tomorrow. It was arranged to take the motion. As a matter of courtesy, I have already told the House, that in view of the obstruction that has taken place and the time that has been wasted, it is necessary now to go on with the discussion of this Bill.

Mr. Yeats: If that is the way the Leader of the House wants it, that is the way he can have it. If he wants obstruction of the Bill, he will get it.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: We have got it.

Mr. Yeats: So far, we have not obstructed the Bill. It is an extremely important and an extremely contentious Bill. So far it has been debated for three days, which is not an unduly long time in view of the great interest in it and, indeed, the great complexity of the Bill. It has not been obstructed. It would be possible to debate it for much longer than three days.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I do not——

Mr. Yeats: If the Leader of the House wants obstruction on the Bill, then he will get it. He is quite wrong——

[858] Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I assure Senator Yeats I am not the slightest bit worried about or afraid of his threats. We have had obstruction and if we get more obstruction we will deal with it.

Mr. Lenihan: In order to bring some order into the proceedings I would like to know from the Leader of the House what he proposes to order for the morning.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: God willing, and assuming I am here tomorrow, I propose to suggest tomorrow on the Order of Business that we continue with the discussion of the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill.

Mr. Yeats: Will the Minister be here?

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: If Senator Yeats subsides and possesses himself in patience until the morning, he will see.

Mr. Yeats: This Bill will not be discussed unless the Minister is here.

Mr. Lenihan: I would like to emphasise one point: we can have a sensible discussion on this Bill and Senator McGlinchey has been putting a number of valid points. The whole essence of parliamentary democracy is putting valid points whether one agrees or disagrees with them. There is no point in introducing jack-boot tactics into the running of parliamentary affairs.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: The jackboot was used by you years ago.

Mr. Lenihan: Any member of the Oireachtas, truly elected, is entitled to make a valid contribution according to his or her view. That contribution was being made and a Minister of State walks out in the middle of that contribution without any explanation.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Was it only in the middle of that contribution? After six hours?

[859] Mr. Lenihan: No explanation was offered. I sat in that chair for a number of years and I never walked out. I sat through long speeches made by Senator O'Higgins when he was sitting in these benches. I sat patiently through them. On the third day of a debate it was not unreasonable to expect the Minister to sit in his seat until 10 o'clock and hear out a contribution from a Senator. To get away from the emotive aspects, this was a disgraceful performance by a Minister.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Nonsense.

Mr. Lenihan: We will forget about that and try to get down to our business in the morning. I take it we will have our debate. There is no need for a vote now as it is 10 o'clock.

An Cathaoirleach: What the Seanad should do now is to decide whether it wants to adjourn or not. What the Seanad will discuss tomorrow will be decided when it assembles.

[860] Mr. Lenihan: I am supporting Senator Yeats that we adjourn now until 10.30 in the morning and we resume on the Order of Business as the Leader of the House has indicated. We have a motion down in regard to education. We do not mind talking the whole day tomorrow or all day Friday.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Senator Lenihan has made it clear that he agrees that we should continue with the discussion of the Bill tomorrow. That is what will be proposed. On that basis I accept the motion.

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: The Chair cannot allow this continued discussion on the adjournment and on what the business for tomorrow will be.

Question put and agreed to.

The Seanad adjourned at 10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 1st May, 1975.