Seanad Éireann - Volume 119 - 23 March, 1988

Order of Business.

Mr. W. Ryan: It is proposed to take Items Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

Mr. Manning: On the Order of Business, I would like to ask the Deputy Leader of the House about the current state of the promised Adoption (No. 2) [98] Bill. We are still waiting. We would like to get some indication as to when this will be taken. Have arrangements been made for the taking of the Social Welfare Bill? What are those arrangements? On the question of the promised discussion on Northern Ireland, what has the Leader of the House in mind on that?

Mr. J. O'Toole: On Item No. 10, the one referred to by Senator Manning that Seanad Éireann takes note of recent events affecting Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations — we had an agreement some weeks back to take that for discussion. All parties agreed that it should be discussed. In the meantime we have seen a grave deterioration in the situation affecting the whole area of Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations. Discussion has never been more urgent than at present and I ask the Deputy Leader of the House——

An Cathaoirleach: You cannot make a speech. You can make your point, but not a speech.

Mr. J. O'Toole: ——if he could indicate the reason this item has now gone further down the Order Paper. When is it envisaged that we will discuss this item of grave importance? I also asked the Leader of the House, at our last get-together about the Adoption (No. 2) Bill. It is grossly unfair that we have to stand up here week after week asking questions about the Adoption (No. 2) Bill. I am putting it to the Cathaoirleach that we are entitled to a straight answer. If the Government are having genuine difficulties of a constitutional nature we should be told so, and we should not have to ask the same questions week in, week out. There are families and children suffering while waiting for this Bill to be implemented. I would like an answer which would clarify the position.

Mrs. Fennell: I would like to add my voice to that appeal. We have all, on this side of the House, sought some information about the Adoption (No. 2) Bill. I would like to remind the Opposition [99] that my party brought out a very good and appropriate Bill to amend the adoption law and enable the adoption of illegitimate children to take place. The Government saw fit to have this voted down and did not accept it. It is absolutely reprehensible that we are waiting so long to have this legislation introduced. I agree with the last speaker. We should be told why.

Mr. B. Ryan: Of course I agree with the previous speakers on the Adoption (No. 2) Bill. Can I give notice to the Government that, on the next sitting day, I will propose that the Adoption (No. 2) Bill should be taken as the first item on the agenda? I will call a vote on it, if necessary. I can do nothing more to register my dissatisfaction. I know of the dissatisfaction of many Members on the Government side with the Government's unsatisfactory record on this issue.

In regard to Item No. 3, could the Leader of the House clarify whether it is proposed to begin Item No. 3 at 6.30 p.m. and go on for two hours and five minutes, or is it proposed to begin earlier and finish at 8 o'clock? Secondly, on Item No. 60, members of my group have asked that this motion, which is an attempt to annual a directive under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act should be discussed. Could I ask the Deputy Leader of the House if he would be prepared to give time to have this matter discussed in view of the appalling victimisation of a journalist by RTE this week? It badly needs to be discussed.

An Cathaoirleach: You cannot go into detail about it. Just ask if he is taking it or not.

Mr. Ross: I should like to disagree with what Senator Ryan has said. I do not want Item No. 60 taken. Item No. 60 refers to the Broadcasting Act. In the Light of what happened on “Questions and Answers” it would be highly inappropriate to try to repeal the Broadcasting Act and section 31.

[100] An Cathaoirleach: If Senator Brendan Ryan may not make a speech the Senator may not make one either.

Mr. Ross: It is nice to see the Cathaoirleach back again. The place was running riot last week in her absence.

An Cathaoirleach: I only missed three hours.

Mr. Ross: I should like to support what Senator O'Toole said about Item No. 10, which is the Anglo-Irish debate. It has been put off twice already when there was an agreement between the Whips that it should be held. It was put off two weeks ago because of the B & I Bill. It appears to have been put off on the promise that it would be discussed for a second time now. I wonder what has to happen in Northern Ireland or in the Republic for the Seanad to discuss Anglo-Irish affairs? What has to happen for it to be a matter——

An Cathaoirleach: You have made your point.

Mr. Ross: Not fully.

An Cathaoirleach: As much as you are going to be allowed to make it.

Mr. Ross: The Order of Business appears to be in something of a mess, not just because of the Anglo-Irish debate which I have referred to but because, as Senator Manning and Senator O'Toole have said, the Adoption (No. 2) Bill — for which we have not been given a reason — has not been taken, and the Companies (No. 2) Bill has not been taken. A few weeks ago we had no legislation and we were almost stuck for business. Now, we have two major substantive Bills which, apparently, we cannot discuss. I would like to know when they are going to be discussed and why they have not been discussed.

Mrs. Robinson: I would like to join with the Senators who have raised a question on the Adoption Bill (No. 2) 1987.

[101] As has already been mentioned, this Bill was brought forward because there was, in fact, another Bill proposed and we had the Second Stage debate on it a very considerable time ago. It is unusual in this House to have such a delay in taking Committee Stage, particularly when the Bill is urgent and when the matter is one that must be dealt with as a matter of urgent family law. This House is owed an explanation as to why there has been such a delay. I would like to serve notice, as Senator Brendan Ryan has done, that this is a matter which should be ordered by this House because there has been no explanation of the delay. We should vote to take Committee Stage, if necessary against the order which is proposed by the Leader of the House.

There is another matter which I wish to raise, namely, the proposal that this House would discuss issues relating to Northern Ireland. I supported that proposal on the Order of Business when it was put forward and I understood we would have a debate on it. I do not share the view of those who feel that matters are too sensitive or difficult. It is important that we would debate Northern Ireland at an early date and I should like to have it, perhaps, on Tuesday of next week. There is no reason this House should not sit on Tuesday next in order to have a debate on Northern Ireland.

The third point I wish to make is on a matter that has been raised by other Senators and on which there has been some disagreement that is, Item No. 60 in the names of a number of Independent Senators including my own name. It states:

That Seanad Éireann hereby annuls the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960 (Section 31) (No. 2) Order, 1987 (S.I. No. 337 of 1987).

The reason I feel there is an urgency about that matter is that the annulment must be within a defined number of sitting days. It has been a tradition in this House that time is provided well within that period of sitting days. Therefore, when there is a motion which could have an [102] effect — it could have the effect of annulling the order — this House has traditionally provided time. It is important that time be provided at an early stage for a debate on Item No. 60.

Mr. Loughrey: I would like to support the proposal to have a debate on Northern Ireland. I am glad that the Intergovernmental Conference is taking place. What has happened in Northern Ireland over the past number of days——

An Cathaoirleach: We know what is happening there. We do not want——

Mr. Loughrey: On Item No. 60, I support the call that this motion be brought forward and debated, if only to reaffirm that section 31 should be observed. We had recently a breach of section 31 deliberately. We have, less deliberately, had a breach of section 31 each Sunday night since Christmas——

An Cathaoirleach: You are completely out of order.

Mr. Loughrey: I do not think I am nearly as much out of order as those people who were allowed to propagate their views on our national media. Nevertheless I bow to your judgment on the matter.

Professor Murphy: Item No. 10 refers to recent events involving Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations. With reference to what Senator O'Toole has said, I think these recent events are so terrible that it is very doubtful that this is the proper time to insist that Item No. 10 should be taken. Rather, indeed, it should be a matter for Seanad Éireann to express its anguished concern about these events and to encourage both Governments to realise the seriousness of the situation. This is not the exact time for a debate.

Mr. Norris: I would like to support the other Senators who have spoken in favour of a debate on the situation in Northern Ireland. I have consistently [103] done so. I believe, as I think many people in the country do, that the democratic institutions of the State must be given the opportunity to discuss these issues. Otherwise the initiative goes back to the men of violence. I would like also to support the proposal to take Item No. 60. I will not rehearse the arguments. They have been very ably made by my colleague Senator Mary Robinson, and by others.

I would like finally to say with regard to Item No. 7 — the Adoption (No. 2) Bill 1987 that it must be taken. We are now at the point where we are just about to break up for the Easter Recess. I would like formally to propose that the Adoption (No. 2) Bill, 1987, be taken on the Order of Business as the first item today, because I take a very serious view of the Government's shilly-shallying in this matter. I would appeal right across the party lines that, when I call for a vote, as I shall do, members of all parties will support this Bill because there are families waiting for the progress of this Bill.

An Cathaoirleach: You have made your point. Let them vote whatever way they like.

Mr. Norris: I wish you had a vote because I am sure, with your great heart, you would vote on the right side.

Mr. Mooney: I do not often find myself sharing sentiments expressed by Senator Murphy, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland. I have to say, however, that there have been several arguments on the other side of the House in favour of a debate on Northern Ireland. I share Senator Murphy's opinion and the reasons for his opinion. It is a time for all responsible politicians in this island, particularly in the southern part of the country, to support the Government in their attempts to diffuse the situation. Unless Senators in this House on all sides have some specific solutions to offer to the appalling tragedy of Northern Ireland, I believe that it would be most inopportune in the present climate to [104] have a debate that could only exacerbate the situation in the North.

On Item No. 60, as a member of the National Union of Journalists and, indeed, specifically the broadcasting branch of RTE, I, too, express my regret at the decision of the RTE authority to dismiss——

An Cathaoirleach: You are not entitled to make that statement, if the people on this side are not entitled to make it.

Mr. Mooney: I appreciate that but perhaps I should make the point as I am a member of the National Union of Journalists and it is affecting a colleague of mine in her work activities. Thank you very much.

An Cathaoirleach: Not on the Order of Business of this House.

Mr. W. Ryan: The Adoption (No. 2) Bill has been mentioned here quite a lot today. I agree with everything that has been said about the delay so far as this Bill is concerned. I have gone faithfully every day after leaving this House to the Department of Health to find out when we were getting this Bill. I have been told up to now that they had some constitutional difficulties with the Bill and that it had to be referred to the Attorney General. Up to a week ago it had not come back from the Attorney General. The only guarantee I can give today is that the Bill will be taken on the first sitting day after Easter. Whether that will satisfy Members I do not know.

The Social Welfare Bill was also mentioned. We are taking the Social Welfare Bill on Friday of this week. If it is not concluded on Friday we will meet again on Tuesday to complete the debate.

An Cathaoirleach: Presumably not Good Friday?

Mr. W. Ryan: I mean the Friday of this week. That is not Good Friday. Regarding the motion relating to Anglo-Irish affairs, a few speakers have said as I would also say, that now is not the time [105] to speak in this House on that motion because the Anglo-Irish Agreement is being discussed at much higher levels. We would prefer to leave it to those people at present.

Tomorrow we will be taking a Bill which has not yet been passed in the Dáil, the Agricultural Credit Bill. It is being passed in the Dáil today. We will be taking that Bill tomorrow because it is a money Bill, and they want it passed rather urgently.

A few people asked why we are not taking item No. 60. It is not our fault. That motion was put down in the names of Senators Brendan Ryan, Joe O'Toole, Mary Robinson and John A. Murphy. they are free to take that motion any time they have a Private Members' motion. For instance, the motions for this week and last week were their motions. This motion was put down about two weeks ago. They are taking today's motion before it. It is not our business to take item No. 60. It is their business to select which item to take in their time. I am sure there will be no objection to that. I think I have answered all the questions.

Mr. B. Ryan: Is item No. 3 being taken at 6.30 p.m.?

Mr. W. Ryan: Yes. It will be taken at 6.30 p.m. and it will go on for two hours and five minutes.

Mr. Norris: Could I ask for a point of clarification so that I will know whether or not I want to call for a vote? I understood the Leader of the House to say that item No. 7 — the Adoption (No. 2) Bill, 1987 — will be taken as the first item of business when the Seanad reassembles. Is my understanding correct?

Mr. W. Ryan: Yes.

Mrs. Robinson: It has been my understanding, from my recollection, that when a motion is put down to annul a Government order it has been taken in Government time. That has been the tradition. It has not been left to the selection of a particular group in Private Members' [106] time, because it affects Government business. It is a decisive matter for this House. Certainly that has been the custom. I hope it will continue to be so.

Order of Business agreed to.

Mr. Cassidy: A Chathaoirligh, before you call item No. 1, could I have permission to propose a vote of congratulations to your very good self on behalf of all the Senators, including myself and Senator Mullooly, who were in America for St. Patrick's Day, on the very dignified manner——

An Cathaoirleach: That is out of order.

Mr. Cassidy: I want to congratulate you on the great ambassador you are for our country.