Seanad Éireann - Volume 124 - 07 March, 1990

Order of Business.

Mr. Lanigan: It is proposed to take Items Nos. 1 and 2 today. Item No. 1 is the order for the Second Stage of the International Carriage of Goods by Road Bill, 1990. We will take Second Stage (Resumed) of the Marine Institute Bill, 1989, up to 6.30 p.m. and the Fine Gael composite motion from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. We will resume Committee Stage of the Derelict Sites Bill, 1989, tomorrow morning and at 1.30 p.m. we will take the motion “That Seanad Éireann wishes to discuss the measures already taken on the impact and extent of recent storm and flood damage” I suggest that be a three-hour debate.

Mr. Manning: On the Order of Business, I wish to raise a number of points. First, I would like to note and to welcome the return to the House of Senators McKenna and McDonald from observing the election in Nicaragua. In view of the fact that two Members of this House were there, would it be possible, tomorrow or next week, to make available half an hour for them to report back to the House on their observations on the election there. If there are observers it is worthwhile getting the benefit of their observations. Secondly, in view of the fact that two of the Senators from Trinity have added — without consultation, but nevertheless welcome — their support to Motion 81, which calls for the setting up of a special committee, I suspect there is all-party agreement that we go ahead with this and perhaps that matter could be expedited.

On today's business, I am fairly certain that the Marine Institute Bill will not last for very long and that we will not fill all [408] the time available. In view of that — there are very few speakers offering — would it be possible, because of the tragedy in Mountjoy Prison last evening, to devote one hour this afternoon to Item No. 83 in the name of Senator Neville on today's Order Paper, if there is an hour available. That motion is directly relevant to last evening's tragedy and perhaps one hour could be made available, even without a Minister, for statements on that subject.

Professor Murphy: I would like to express my disappointment that we have not progressed further on the Marine Institute Bill. There was an understanding that Committee Stage would be taken today and, as Senator Manning has pointed out, it is unlikely that Second Stage is going to take us very far.

I would also urge the Leader of the House to consider making time available for a debate on two mainline issues. The first is the urgency which now attaches to a debate on Northern Ireland because of the implications of the Supreme Court judgment in the McGimpsey case. Secondly, at this stage with historic events happening like wildfire under the Irish Presidency, it seems to me imperative that we have an immediate debate in this House on the interim developments on the European and world scene under the Presidency. I hope it would not be too much to expect that the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs would take time off from their whirlwind schedule to put in an appearance in this House and not simply when there is a gala occasion offering.

Mr. Neville: I would like to support Senator Manning on his proposal that Item No. 83 be discussed. In doing so I would like to convey our sympathy to the family of the bereaved person who committed suicide in Mountjoy yesterday. It is wrong to have somebody who has committed petty crime — this person was convicted of just shoplifting ——

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is [409] making a speech on this matter and I cannot allow that.

Mr. Neville: I think prisons should be for hardened criminals and in a week where there was a proposal that somebody who had committed ——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, I regret I cannot allow you to continue to make a speech.

Mr. Neville: I second Senator Manning's proposal on Item No. 83.

Pól Ó Foighil: Ba mhaith liom i dtosach báire mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl don Chathaoirleach go speisialta as an obair an-phraiticiúil atá déanta aige le go mbeadh córas aistriúcháin sa Teach seo go luath. Is cúis áthais dom go bhfuil litir faighte ag an Comhchoiste don Ghaeilge, a bhfuil mise i mo bhall air, go mbeidh an córas aistriúcháin insealbhaithe sa Teach seo an samhradh seo chugainn, ar a dhéanaí.

Because of that I would like to place on record the appreciation of people on both sides of the House for the efforts that were put into having this direct translation sevice made available, and especially the Chair and the Leader of the House.

Mar gheall air sin tá mé sásta anois gan leanúint leis an chosc a bhí agam ó thaobh dátheangachais, agus an Béarla agus an Ghaeilge a úsáid.

I do have a few words of English, which I hope you will hear from now on.

Mr. O'Reilly: Would the Leader of the House agree that it would greatly enhance the reputation of the Seanad, which on occasion has been tarnished, if we were to have wide-ranging discussion very soon on the health services, on achieving better value for money and on achieving better patient care. Would the Leader of the House agree that this is a most urgent matter and that the reputation of the House would be enhanced by our taking on board an issue of such national concern?

[410] Mr. Costello: May I beg your indulgence, first, to welcome the students and teachers of Loreto College, Swords, who are present in the Public Gallery? It is an important matter that young people in their teens who will be voting——

An Cathaoirleach: I must remind the Senator that it is not the practice of the House to refer to people in the Gallery. However, we would share your sentiment.

Mr. Costello: It is an important matter that people who are voting have the opportunity of seeing the Houses in operation.

Secondly, I wish to support the motion in relation to Item No. 83 that was proposed by Senator Maurice Manning and seconded by Senator Dan Neville in regard to the recent appalling death in Mountjoy Prison. I had intended to put in a motion under Standing Order 29 on the matter. I think it is of extreme urgency that the entire area in relation to deaths in prison, and particularly in relation to this suicide, where for the first time in the history of the State a young woman has died——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, you are engaging in a speech and I must ask you——

Mr. Costello: ——a woman who should not have been in prison in the first place——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, you are engaging in a speech.

Mr. Costello: Thirdly, I wish to add my voice to what has already been said by Senator Murphy in relation to a debate on Northern Ireland. We have raised this on a number of occasions. Many international issues have been debated at length in this House, quite rightly, but now because of the very specific developments that have taken place in relation to the Parliamentary Tier and the meetings between the North, the South and Britain in parliamentary terms and also because [411] of last week's decision in the Supreme Court case which raises new issues in relation——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, you are making a speech and I must remind you of that.

Mr. Costello: ——to the Constitution and it would be appropriate——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, you are making a speech.

Mr. O'Toole: I just want to pick up on a number of issues which we seemed to have dropped off the agenda for the last period of time. Over the past number of months a number of commitments have been given to us by the Leader of the House, one in particular on the Death Penalty Bill. On two occasions we have asked that this be placed on the Order Paper and on one occasion we put it to a vote. On both occasions the Leader of the House have us to understand it was his intention in the first case before Christmas and then in the spring that the Government would introduce a Bill calling for the abolition of the death penalty. There seems to be total consensus and it was in the Programme for Government. However, there is no indication when the Bill will be published and we certainly need a very clear indication in terms of dates when this is likely to happen. It is not that one would wish to set out to embarrass the Government in their Programme for Government but we would like to have an undertaking on the matter.

In recent times, if I can put the question to the Leader of the House, we have also had various discussions here on the need for a foreign policy committee. We have had a debate on foreign policy almost on a weekly basis since we resumed last October and raised at that time the Government's attitude towards a foreign policy committee. We were led to believe that the Government had that matter under active consideration. However reports from another place in [412] the past number of days have indicated that the Government feel this would in some way inhibit the democratic process. I would like to hear from the Leader of the House if the setting up of a foreign policy committee is still on the agenda of Government.

A commitment was also given recently that the report on libel and newspapers was something that would be discussed in the House, the report of the commission and so on. I would ask for the views of the Leader of the House on that point at this stage.

Finally, I certainly support the idea of filling in some extra business this afternoon. The debate on the Marine Institute Bill is going to collapse in two hours' time at the very latest, — there are just not that number of speakers. I know you normally rely on the Independent group to keep the speeches going, but most of the Independents have spoken on it already.

Mr. Staunton: I have been one of those pressing very regularly for the establishment of a foreign affairs committee of the Oireachtas. The Leader of the House is aware of this. There is just a simple aspect of what that committee should do which I want to bring to the attention of the House. Given that power has shifted to such a huge extent since 1973 to European institutions, there are many times when I feel here much more as a county councillor than I do as a Member of a national Parliament. If one is not on the committee dealing with secondary European legislation, which is reactive in dealing with existing legislation, there is no mechanism within the two Houses of Parliament here for any liaison between Members of the Oireachtas and European institutions. I have been in touch recently with the Office of the European Communities to see if there are facilities from that source. There are virtually no facilities from that source either and——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, I must remind you that you are making a speech at this time.

[413] Mr. Staunton: I appreciate your tolerance. I am just simply saying it is imperative that this issue be raised so that responsible Members of the Oireachtas may occasionally get into the necessary dialogue in the areas of which they have speciality in Brussels.

Mr. Norris: I would have found it easier to join with Senator Costello in his welcome to the students now absent had that distinguished order not chased out to Swords from North Great George's Street in full pursuit of the middle classes. However, I take his point that it is important that young people be brought into the democratic process.

I would like to refer to the Order of Business under which Senator Manning has included on the Order Paper a motion concerning the enfranchisement of further University constituencies. I was some what surprised at his remarks that I added my name without consultation. I would like to take this opportunity to point out to the House that Senator Manning placed this on the Order Paper without consultation with me, and it is a matter that materially affects my constituents. I hope we will return to the normal courtesies in this matter.

I would like also to ask the Leader of the House if he would be in position to give the House some information on the current state of play with regard to the Clinical Trials Bill, which is a matter of very considerable importance as its slow passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas is currently holding back access to DDI, a very important drug in the fight against AIDS, which is available at the moment in the United Kingdom, is available here through the voluntary——

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is also making a speech.

Mr. Norris: I just would like to finish that sentence, if I may, a Chathaoirligh, and that is to say that, if it is passed, it will become available to about 19 people who are currently endangered because of its lack of availability.

I would like to remind Senator Lanigan [414] that I am still very actively interested in Item No. 30 on the Supplementary Order Paper which is the European Court judgment. I have discussed this with other people on this side of the House. I will not be pushing it to a vote today. I will not be seeking to amend the Order of Business because I believe in being constructive, and I understand the Leader of the House is bringing it to Government. I look forward to an early answer from him with regard to the Government's response to the European judgement.

The Leader of the House last week gave an undertaking, which I would like him to specify and make clearer today, with regard to Item No. 32. There were very positive indications that this might be taken as an all-party motion. I wonder if he will confirm that and give some indication of a date.

With regard to Item No. 38 in my name and those of Senator Brendan Ryan and Senator Carmencita Hederman about Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, I would like to support what my distinguished colleague, Senator Murphy, has said with regard to the importance of this item, taking into account the McGimpsey judgment. I believe Item No. 38 will have to be withdrawn and redrafted to read that a referendum should be held to abolish Articles 2 and 3 in the light of the McGimpsey judgment. I have now formally changed my view on this in the light of this very worrying——

An Cathaoirleach: Your are making a speech, Senator.

Mr. Norris: In that case, can I move on?

An Cathaoirleach: I am going to ask you to resume your seat.

Mr. Norris: I have two further items which are directly related to the Order of Business.

An Cathaoirleach: You had better stick to the rules and procedures of this House.

[415] Mr. Norris: I am certainly trying, with your assistance, to do so.

An Cathaoirleach: You have avoided it in the past few moments.

Mr. Norris: On Item No. 56, I would like to have an undertaking from the Leader of the House when this will be taken in the light of the report published today about overflying Shannon Airport.

Dr. Upton: May I support the request of my colleague, Senator Costello, and Senators Manning and Neville that the Leader of the House would make time available for statements on the case of the unfortunate girl who died in Mountjoy Prison this morning, even if it only a brief statement — perhaps something like two or three minutes from a representative of each group. I would also like to ask the Cathaoirleach if it would be possible to have the issues covered in Item No. 89 on the Order Paper relating to the lack of grants being provided for conversion to smokeless heating systems. This is a particular concern of mine. It is especially relevant in the Crumlin/Drimnagh areas of Dublin where very many people had made preparations to convert their homes on the assumption that grants would be provided and they now feel, arising from the Minister, Deputy Harney's statement this week, that the rug has been pulled from under them——

An Cathaoirleach: You are making a speech also, Senator.

Mr. B. Ryan: Cuirim fáilte, maraon leis an Seanadóir Ó Foighil, roimh an fógra — ní fheadar an raibh an ceart aige é a chur os comhair an tSeanaid ag an am a chuir sé é — go mbeidh córas aistriúcháin ar fáil sa tí seo.

May I say — and, like Senator Ó Foighil, I have more than a few words of English — Members of this House will be well advised to read a book that has recently been published about what the decline of the language represents in this [416] country. It is an interesting essay by Joe Lee on our national psychology which deserves to be read by everybody in both Houses of the Oireachtas. May I, and without making a speech, associate myself with the request to the Leader of the House for time to discuss the 18th suicide in six years in our prisons? It seems to me that to discuss the abolition of capital punishment when we have 18 people who have committed suicide in our prisons is a little bit of a side issue. I support fully the abolition of capital punishment. I wish we did not create prisons which effectively result in the death of shoplifters. It is an appalling situation, a scandal, and we ought to have a serious discussion on it.

Mr. Ross: First, I would like to apologise in as humble a fashion as I know to Senator Manning for supporting that particular motion which he put on the Order Paper without consulting him, but he was not available at the time.

Mr. Manning: On a point of order, I welcome the support.

Mr. Ross: Without consultation. If you let me finish without interruption, I am admitting a fault on my part, but the Senator was not available at the time. In saying so, I think I should say to Senator Manning, when he refers to the two Senators as “Senators from Trinity”, that for an academic as distinguished as himself I might correct him. We are not Senators from Trinity; we are Senators from Dublin University — a distinction which undoubtedly he will understand.

Mr. Manning: I stand corrected.

Mr. Ross: That is all right.

Mrs. Honan: Wait until the lads down the country get a vote.

An Cathaoirleach: Order, please. Senator Ross.

Mr. Ross: The unruly element in this House is always very difficult to control. [417] Secondly, I think the Leader of the House missed answering my question last week about the death penalty which Senator O'Toole has already asked. He simply did not answer the question last week. I do not put this down to any particular sinister motive but I would ask him to answer in a more specific way. Finally, it is possibly indicative of the rigid procedures of this House that we are this week discussing storm damage when the storms are over. I welcome the fact that we are discussing it, but perhaps we should in an all-party non-partisan way introduce procedures which are not competely at the discretion of the Chair and which will allow this House to discuss matters such as storm damage which are very serious when they are happening. I welcome the suggestion, for instance, that we should discuss the suicides in the prisons today. It is an urgent issue. We should discuss Nicaragua today because it is also an urgent issue.

An Cathaoirleach: You are making a speech, Senator.

Mr. Ross: I am making two or three points.

An Cathaoirleach: You are making a speech, regardless of the number of points.

Mr. Ross: What is important is that perhaps the Leader of the House and the Whips would get together every week and agree an all-party motion on an urgent matter. It is ridiculous. Today the weather is calm and we are discussing storm damage tomorrow when it all happened last week. It would be far better if procedures were introduced——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, I must remind you for the last time, you are making a speech.

Mr. Ross: I cannot hear myself speaking.

An Cathaoirleach: It is pointless asking you. The Leader of the House to reply.

[418] Mr. Lanigan: It is interesting to hear Senator Ross speaking about the rigid procedures of the House when he is one of the people who continually criticises the House for not being rigid.

Mr. O'Toole: On a point of order——

An Cathaoirleach: The Leader of the House is replying.

Mr. O'Toole: I would ask that that be withdrawn immediately——

An Cathaoirleach: I am asking you to resume your seat.

Mr. O'Toole: It is totally unwarranted——

Mr. Norris: Can I ask a question——

An Cathaoirleach: You cannot ask anything.

Mr. Norris: We continually have to take slurs from that side of the House against a particular group of Senators.

Mr. Lanigan: There was a question asked about agreement among the Whips. The Whips meet every Thursday morning and agreement is reached on the business for the following week. I must say I am surprised that questions about what happens at the Whips meetings continually come up here. The agreements have been made.

Questions were asked today about the Marine Institute Bill and it has suggested that this item might not last the length of time suggested by me — 2.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. There was agreement between the Whips that we would take this item between 2.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. and it was the Opposition Whips who asked for an extension of time. We will take it until 6.30 p.m.

In regard to Senator Manning's point about Nicaragua, I think there should be a debate on that matter. The Whips can have a discussion on it tomorrow morning. On the setting up of a committee on [419] the extension of the franchise to the other universities, I am not too sure how we will do that. We can have a discussion at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges this evening on the formation of that sub-committee. I think that is the best way to go about it. On Item No. 83 which was raised by a number of Senators, I would suggest that that, as a matter of urgency, there can be a request to the Cathaoirleach to allow a motion under Standing Order 29.

Senator Murphy asked about the Marine Institute Bill and it was suggested also that the debate might fall. The Whips had agreed that there would be a need for the time we have allowed for that item today. On the question of a statement on the developing situation in the north raised by Senator Murphy, that can be taken up tomorrow at the Whips meeting to find out the best way to deal with it.

I do not understand what Senator O'Reilly means by “enhance the reputation”. If he wants a debate on health matters he can ask for it and we all see if that can be brought forward. I will look at the matter of a debate on the health situation in consultation with the Whips and the Government to see how best we can deal with that.

Senator Norris asked a question on the Clinical Trials Bill. I will query the Government on that matter. On Item No. 30, the European Court judgment, that matter is under active consideration and as soon as the Government are clear that it can be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas in the proper manner it will be brought forward; I think that will be at an early date. The Senator also asked a question about the debate on the railways and so forth. That is a matter for debate tomorrow morning at the Whips' meeting. The matter of overflying Shannon Airport is not a matter I can discuss here. It has nothing to do with me on the Order of Business.

Senator Upton also raised the matter of Item No. 83. Again, I suggest that it could be dealt with by requesting permission to raise the matter under Standing Order 29. On Item No. 89 which [420] concerns smokeless fuel and which was raised by Senator Costello, again that is a matter that can be raised by the Labour group as their own motion. If they feel that is the most urgent item they have on the agenda. They can bring it forward. Senator Ryan asked about Item No. 83 also and I give him the same answer.

Senators Ross and O'Toole asked a question about abolition of the death penalty. The Minister was in the House last week and he gave a reply on that in his speech on the Larceny Bill. That is a matter that will be coming before the House in the very near future.

Senator O'Toole said I gave a certain agreement in this House regarding a foreign policy committee. I never gave any such commitment. I never said it was under active consideration. There is no question or doubt about that. If I was asked a question about it, I gave a reply that it was a matter for the Government and that I would carry the wishes of the people who asked the question to the Government.

A report on libel and the newspapers was mentioned by Senator O'Toole. That is a matter that was raised originally by Senator Manning. We can get agreement to have a debate on that particular report at any stage. The Whips agreed the business for today. It was agreed between them that we would have the debate on the Marine Institute Bill from 2.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.

A question was raised by Senator Staunton in relation to the foreign affairs committee. There was a motion before the House last week and also this week on the setting up of a foreign policy committee and I presume there will be a vote on that matter this evening. The matter is under debate. I cannot understand how people can stand up here asking for something that is on the Order of Business.

Mr. Staunton: On a point of order, this is specifically on the issue of liaison with the European Community, not specifically on the foreign affairs committee.

Mr. Lanigan: Senator Neville raised item No. 83. I would suggest that he [421] would consider a request to have it dealt with by way of a motion under Standing Order 29.

Order of Business agreed to.

Mr. Costello: If there is time remaining after the Marine Institute Bill could that time be given ——

An Cathaoirleach: The Order of Business has been agreed.