Seanad Éireann - Volume 92 - 16 May, 1979

Private Business. - Order of Business.

Mr. E. Ryan: It is proposed to take Nos. 2 and 19.

Mrs. Hussey: On the Order of Business, while I am very glad to hear that item No. 19 on the Order Paper is being taken, though this comes as a complete surprise to me, it is not out of order to draw the attention of the House [88] to item No. 20 which is not unrelated to Item No. 19. Item No. 20 is a motion in the name of myself and Senator West regarding the broadcasting of Seanad debates. I want to point out that this motion is not a sudden whim of either myself or Senator West. It is in fact a step in a very long battle to have the matter discussed at all. As the Cathaoirleach will be aware, it is a battle which I have been conducting at the Committee of Procedures and Privileges. Considering we are to discuss rather suddenly the question of independent local radio, I believe the question of this House's deliberations being broadcast throughout the country by RTE is very urgent. Therefore, I would like to ask for an early debate of this question.

Mrs. Robinson: I wish to draw attention to a motion which has been tabled by Senator Keating and myself regarding a very important subject about which the Minister for Justice spoke recently, that is the issue of legal aid. Item No. 22 on the Order Paper for today is as follows:

That Seanad Éireann considers that the proposed civil legal aid scheme should be introduced by legislation setting out clear policy lines and protecting the rights of citizens; that an attempt to implement such a scheme by administrative action would deprive the Houses of the Oireachtas of their proper jurisdiction in the matter and would prevent the legislative establishment of an independent board, of proper community law centres with local management committees and of a panel of barristers and solicitors to ensure the adequate provision of legal services throughout the country.

We have tabled this motion because we are gravely concerned about the recent announcement by the Minister for Justice that he proposes to implement some administrative scheme providing for community legal assistance centres.

An Cathaoirleach: I cannot allow a speech on the motion.

Mrs. Robinson: I do not wish to [89] abuse the Order of Business by making a speech at this stage but the issue in principle is one about which the Labour Party feel extremely strongly and that issue is: should civil legal aid be introduced by legislation? There is also another substantive motion on the Order Paper. That is item No. 15 in the names of Senators Patrick Cooney and David Molony and it reads:

That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to introduce as a matter of urgency a comprehensive scheme of civil legal aid and advice as outlined in the Report of the Committee on Civil Legal Aid and Advice.

I know that both Senators have asked for time for that motion which has been on the Order Paper for a long time.

In view of the recent announcement and of the utter importance of this subject, it is absolutely vital that when we are introducing civil legal aid we do it properly and that this House be afforded an early opportunity to discuss the subject. I would be happy to combine our motion with the substantive motion in the names of the Fine Gael Senators. The subject is one of the utmost urgency. It is one that is causing grave concern to the Free Legal Aid Centre who have volunteered to carry on for the moment with a view to seeing what kind of scheme will be introduced. The Seanad, by debating the issue in principle, could make a very constructive and positive attempt to set down the basic kind of legal aid scheme which we must have. We in the Labour Party submit that that must be by legislation and not by an administrative scheme. I would ask the Leader of the House if he could facilitate us with an early date to discuss this very urgent matter.

Mr. McCartin: In the absence of Senator Cooney who put down item No. 21 on the situation of the boatyards at Killybegs, Baltimore and Dingle, I feel obliged to ask when this motion will be taken because I understand that the jobs of many people, including 150 people in Killybegs, are in imminent danger and that those people are awaiting a decision on this matter. Therefore, the matter requires [90] a public discussion and I should like to know when the Minister may be available to have a debate on it here in the Seanad.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: We appreciate the way in which the Leader of the House is dealing with these motions. I did not know personally—and I do not think I could have known before Monday—that this motion was being discussed. I wonder if we are all expected to go around with 19 speeches in our heads, ready to produce them here at any moment. Could our existing communications system be improved in relation to these matters so that we would be able to express ourselves better?

Mr. E. Ryan: I am sure that would not be any trouble to Senator FitzGerald. The position, as the House knows, is that we reached an agreement to take one motion per month and we are complying with that decision. We will, I hope, continue to comply with it. I will bear in mind the views expressed by a number of Senators in relation to motions that are urgent. All I can say is that I will do my best to meet the wishes of the various speakers to these motions. They are taken in rotation and I am not sure which party or which group is next but that will have to be borne in mind.

Order of Business agreed to.