Seanad Éireann - Volume 126 - 31 October, 1990

Order of Business.

Mr. Fallon: The Order of Business for today is Items Nos. 6 and 5 and from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Item No. 66.

Mr. Manning: On the Order of Business, I have to say first that there is a certain air of unreality and uncertainty about our proceedings today. For that reason I would like to ask the Leader of the House if we are meeting tomorrow and afterwards, if he would arrange to have a debate on the events of last weekend in Rome — the outcome of the summit in Rome — which have the most far-reaching consequences for this country, and if he would look sympathetically at a full day-long debate on that issue. Also, could he assure us that the Order Paper will be somewhat more [1195] substantial in the coming weeks, should there be coming weeks?

Mr. O'Toole: On the Order of Business, I would like to raise on behalf of the Independent group a number of sensitive matters relating to the function of the Cathaoirleach as a Senator and to say that we have been concerned over the summer about certain actions taken by yourself. I do not wish to go into them in detail and I do not wish to create any difficulty for yourself. I will be very brief.

An Cathaoirleach: I must remind you that I cannot allow you to involve the Chair in the proceedings of the House. Standing Orders are very specific in that regard and with great respect to you, Senator, I must point out to you that I will rely on Standing Orders to protect the Chair.

Mr. O'Toole: My comments are directed through you to the Leader of the House. I want to make that clear. I ask that the functions of the Chair and the way in which the office of the Cathaoirleach should be carried out with sensitivity and with dignity and with due regard to the House and to the office and making a sensitive differentiation——

An Cathaoirleach: I must remind you that you are making inferences concerning the Chair that are not acceptable and you are in breach of Standing Orders. I am now asking you to desist.

Mr. O'Toole: In conclusion, a Chathaoirligh, I would ask that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges would look at the role of the Cathaoirleach in order that there would be guidelines put together by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges so that this difficulty does not constantly arise. I am saying this in the most subtle way I can manage — I am not personalising it — through the Leader of the House. I do not wish to have a debate on it at this point. I just feel it is something we should address. It is something which should be clear——

[1196] An Cathaoirleach: Senator, you are completely out of order and I have given you very considerable latitude.

Mr. O'Toole: I would ask the Leader of the House to respond on that matter, please.

Mr. Cassidy: I would like to ask the Leader of the House what progress is being made in relation to the televising of proceedings in the Chamber and could he give an up-to-date report to us. Also, has the Leader any proposals to change the proceedings in relation to a smoother running of the Seanad and its business?

Pól Ó Foighil: A Chathaoirligh, ba mhaith liom a fhiafraí, cad iad na socruithe nua atá déanta anois le go mbeadh córas aistriúcháin comhfhuaimneach sa Seanad, agus an bhfuil aon scéal faighte aige nach mbeidh a leithéid ar fáil agus cén fáth nach mbeidh sé ar fáil. Tá sé seo ardaithe agamsa faoi riail 29 agus beidh mé ag iarraidh ar an Chathaoirleach rialú air sin inniu.

Mr. B. Ryan: I agree with my colleague, Senator O'Toole, that it is a matter to be solved and it should be solved. While I agree with Senator Cassidy that televising of this House is an important issue and should be sorted out, may I say that, given the paucity of business in this House, there has been very little to televise over the last six months.

Mr. Cosgrave: On the Order of Business, I would like to briefly mention to the Leader of the House — perhaps he would carry it back to his colleague, the Minister for Finance — the disturbing situation we had last week when our secretaries were outside Leinster House. Thankfully now, it appears an initiative has taken place and talks will take place. All of us would be concerned about the situation if it were to develop. I ask the Leader of the House to carry back to his colleague, the Minister for Finance, the need to recognise the seriousness of the situation and to respond positively to it.

[1197] Mr. Lanigan: There is something wrong with the microphones.

An Cathaoirleach: I understand the acoustics were improved in the House but clearly that is not evident at this time.

Mr. Norris: I would like to support what Senator Cosgrave has said. I think it is very important that the valuable work done by the secretaries is recognised and appropriately rewarded because it helps to make us efficient in the performance of our proper function.

I would like to ask the Leader of the House if he can give us any information with regard to Government proposals to amend the law on homosexuality in line with the European Court judgment. I so ask because it is my intention to put down once more on the Order Paper a motion identical to the one that was on the last Order Paper and particularly in recognition of the fact that last Saturday was the second anniversary of this judgment. It seems astonishing that the Government can continue to ignore this. I would like if the Leader of the House could give some information on that.

I would like simply to confirm to the House that I wrote to Senator O'Toole who is my representative on the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the matter he raised which I do not intend to go into. I am sure you, Sir, will see that it is dealt with in that committee unlike a previous matter in a previous Seanad where I directed the attention of the CPP to a misleading of the House by a Government Cabinet Minister. That matter was never resolved.

An Cathaoirleach: I cannot allow that type of comment to be made. Again, Senator, it is regrettable that you have to be constantly reminded.

Mr. Norris: The record will show that what I say is accurate.

An Cathaoirleach: It is not in accordance with the matter we are dealing with at the moment, that is, the Order of Business.

[1198] Mr. Norris: It is a question of my confidence in the capacity of the CPP to deal appropriately with serious matters.

An Cathaoirleach: It is a question of what this House has before it to deal with.

Mr. Norris: In that case I move on to make a specific proposal about the Order of Business: that we take as the first item No. 78 on the supplementary Order Paper in the name of Senator Ross and myself:

That Seanad Éireann requests the Government to establish a judicial inquiry to establish the truth of recent statements in the press that a member of the present Government while in Opposition in 1982 applied improper pressure to a member of the, armed forces serving on the staff of Áras an Uachtaráin.

I would like finally to conclude by saying that it was a matter of regret to me to be in the other Chamber and to hear the Leader of the Labour Party express dissatisfaction——

An Cathaoirleach: I must ask you to resume your seat.

Dr. McCarthy: Perhaps the Senator might get in touch with the Presidential candidate who is very hot on homosexuality and might support his cause.

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: Order, please. Senator Hourigan.

Mr. Norris: I would like to ask that that remark be withdrawn. I have been insulted and abused in this House and I object very strenuously to this continuing——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, I am asking you to resume your seat. If you contributed to the type of order that is essential in this House, the Chair might [1199] hear exactly what Members are saying. Senator Hourigan.

Mr. Hourigan: There was an intimation that the House may or may not be meeting tomorrow. I would like, through you, a Chathaoirligh, to say to the Leader of the House that in the event of the House not meeting tomorrow perhaps accommodation could be found to discuss the crisis in agriculture. The crisis in agriculture is extremely grave and it warrants urgent and immediate debate and attention.

An Cathaoirleach: If you have a question, put it.

Mr. Hourigan: The question is: can we expect a debate during the present sitting on the current crisis in agriculture?

Mr. McGowan: Most Members of the House are most anxious to see the business of the House being conducted in a smooth manner. I believe there are some Members in the House who misunderstand your liberal approach and that you have endeavoured to give even Independents a fair innings and a fair contribution. That is totally misunderstood to the point where I believe that you, a Chathaoirligh, will have to recognise that those who have been so accommodated are now reaching the stage where they are abusing the facilities of this House every day to a point that is not acceptable to the majority of the Members of this House.

An Cathaoirleach: I must remind the Senator that we are dealing with the Order of Business.

Mr. Ross: I plead guilty to Senator McGowan's accusation. I certainly misunderstand your liberal approach. Senator McGowan is absolutely correct. I would ask you to ask Senator McCarthy to withdraw the remark which he made on the record here that Senator Norris [1200] should consult with his Presidential colleague who is hot on the subject of homosexuality. If you did not hear it, Sir, that is what he said.

An Cathaoirleach: I cannot deal with hearsay.

Mr. Manning: On a point of order, it is very clear on the record of the House. It was very clearly heard.

An Cathaoirleach: Unfortunately, I did not hear the remark. On many occasions I am not in a position to hear because of the confrontational situation that develops at the drop of a hat here.

Mr. Ross: I note that Senator McCarthy is not denying the comment and I ask you to ask him to withdraw it.

An Cathaoirleach: I cannot ask him to withdraw something I did not hear.

Mr. Ross: Everybody else in the House heard him.

An Cathaoirleach: I am not going to ask him to withdraw something I did not hear and can make no judgment upon.

Mrs. Hederman: Very selective.

An Cathaoirleach: It is not selective and the Chair rejects that remark, Senator Hederman.

Mr. Ross: The second thing I would like to say on the Order of Business is that although today I suppose we are not in the limelight, and therefore we are not under pressure and the business we are discussing is not under scrutiny, I think I could ask the Leader of the House a perfectly routine question, and that is why there is only one minor piece of legislation before this House and there are 27 pieces of legislation before the Dáil? It is an appalling reflection on this House that the business of this House is continually being run by the Government in this totally carefree and cavalier fashion. I have not been into the details [1201] of what legislation could have been introduced here which is now before the Dáil, but it appears to me that several of the Bills that are coming to the Dáil could have been introduced in this House. We have got absolutely nothing to do in the way of legislation bar one Bill. We are discussing tomorrow statements on agriculture which may be——

An Cathaoirleach: If you have a question to put to the Leader of the House, put it. You are making a speech.

Mr. Ross: I am putting the question. I would like the Leader of the House to give us some assurances, if this Seanad is going to last, that we will get continuous legislation introduced in this House, no clog of legislation in the Dáil, and a fair crack of the whip in this House.

Mr. O'Keeffe: May I ask the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Manning, if he proposes to make a statement to the Seanad, as a senior staff member in the Political Science Department in UCD, on the role he played in having a postgraduate student release confidential information to the press and——

An Cathaoirleach: That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. O'Keeffe: ——if he would comment on the repercussions of such revelations——

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: I must tell the Senator for the last time that that does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. O'Keeffe: ——and the ethics of such a move?

Mr. Manning: A very serious allegation has been made.

An Cathaoirleach: I am not going to allow a discussion on matters that do not relate to the Order of Business. I have [1202] pointed out to each Member equally and fairly——

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: I am not going to be intimidated, Senator Ross.

Mr. O'Keeffe: No allegation was made. I asked the question if the Senator proposes to make a statement——

An Cathaoirleach: I will not allow any further comment, Senator.

Mr. Manning: First of all, I count it very serious that——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Manning——

Mr. Manning: ——an innuendo was made across the floor. We have heard Senator McCarthy try to smear Mary Robinson and now we have the second smear as the party opposite more and more seek to——

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Martin Cullen.

Mr. Manning: For the record, I have not been a member of that department for three years.

An Cathaoirleach: I am calling Senator Martin Cullen.

Mr. Cullen: I would like to dissociate myself and my colleagues who sit on this side of the House from all the remarks made by Senator McCarthy. I would like to put it on the record that they would not be representative of the views of the Progressive Democrats.

Mr. Ross: Surely he cannot——

An Cathaoirleach: We do not share the same ear.

(Interruptions.)

[1203] Dr. Upton: The intervention of Senator McCarthy was absolutely disgraceful and the suggestion that Senator Maurice Manning, who is a colleague of mine in UCD, has been anything other than honourable I would certainly object to vigorously.

An Cathaoirleach: I must ask the Senator to desist.

Mrs. Jackman: I would like to get back to the real business of this House. On exactly 1 November last year, I, with the Fine Gael group, put down a motion looking for Seanad voting rights to be extended to the junior universities, Dublin City University and the University of Limerick. Since then a decision was made that a committee would be set up to look into the feasibility of granting the Seanad franchise. The leader came back to us and said that it was not within the jurisdiction of a committee to decide on Seanad votes. Does the Leader of the House intend to take up immediately the situation of extending Seanad voting rights to the two new universities and not have the discrimination that exists at the moment where there are graduates——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, you have put your question.

Mrs. Jackman: I am asking the Leader of the House is it possible he will be able to do that?

Mr. Costello: First, I would like to second the proposal that we take Item No. 78 on the Order Paper in the name of Senator Norris, namely, that Seanad Éireann requests the Government to establish a judicial inquiry to establish the truth of recent statements in the press that a member of the present Government while in Opposition——

An Cathaoirleach: It is not necessary to read the motion at all.

Mr. Costello: ——in 1982 applied improper pressure on a member of the [1204] armed forces serving on the staff of Áras an Uachtaráin.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, it is on the Order Paper. That is the purpose of the Order Paper.

Mr. Costello: For the relevancy of our discussions it would be a very unfortunate situation that both Houses of the Oireachtas could be dissolved without us here in the Seanad having the opportunity to discuss matters that are going on at present in the other House. Would the leader make time available——

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: I must point out to the Senator that the business of the other House is not a matter for this House.

Mr. Costello: Motion No. 78 concerns matters that are being discussed at the present time. If the Leader of the House would be willing to make time available for a broader discussion of the matters that are of national concern at the present time that would certainly be most welcome, considering the paucity of information or material we are dealing with today on the Order Paper.

Secondly, would the Leader of the House give us an idea of the programme of work we are likely to face in the coming months, if there is going to be a programme of work and how he would envisage the matters being dealt with? In the last sitting of the Seanad we emphasised the necessity of allowing this House to have the opportunity of initiating legislation. There are so many Bills at present on the Order Paper of the other House that we could easily take up some of that burden of work. Could we have some response in relation to that matter?

Finally, I would like to condemn as strongly as possible the outrageous allegations that were made by Senator McCarthy and Senator O'Keeffe——

An Cathaoirleach: I am not going to allow this type of debate to continue. There is no necessity. I am asking Senator [1205] Costello to resume his seat because I have pointed out the situation before.

Mr. Costello: I would ask that Senator McCarthy in particular, who made a smear against a Presidential candidate, withdraw that remark. It is necessary. All of us here heard that.

An Cathaoirleach: Please resume your seat. Senator Costello, you are ignoring the Chair. Resume your seat, please.

Mr. Costello: I do so reluctantly, a Chathaoirligh.

Mr. Lanigan: I rise just to ask the Leader of the Seanad that under no circumstances should he allow Item No. 78 to come on the Order Paper of this House. There is a situation here where innuendo has become the rule, where there is absolutely no truth. There are people here who are suggesting, from a newspaper report, that an item should be placed and a judicial inquiry should be held because of a newspaper inquiry and report. It is disgraceful that this item should appear on the Order Paper. Innuendo should not be used to have items placed on the Order Paper. I sincerely suggest that this item be never discussed.

Mr. O'Toole: On a point of order, was that contribution in order? Is it in order for somebody to make a case for something not to be taken?

An Cathaoirleach: It was certainly stretching the limits.

Mr. O'Toole: I thought so. The difference between himself and myself is that he was saying the right things obviously.

Mr. Manning: On a point of order, I was not given the protection of the Chair when, by innuendo, a very serious professional charge was made against me by Senator O'Keeffe. I want to say simply one thing that will clear up the matter. I have not been a member of the Politics [1206] Department since 1987. I have been fulltime Director of Development at University College, Dublin. I am currently on leave of absence from the university so I have had no involvement in University College, Dublin, with any academic matter for the past three years. Perhaps that will clear up the matter.

Mr. Fallon: A number of Senators have spoken in regard to many matters. Senator Manning particularly asked a question about the possibility of a debate on the recent summit in Rome and the problems of that summit. Certainly, that is not something I would be opposed to having some time in the future and it is something about which I will ask the Whips to have a discussion.

Senator O'Toole dealt with your own particular problem, a Chathaoirligh. Senator O'Toole himself has replied to it and, indeed, subsequently Senator Norris admitted it was not a matter appropriate to the Order of Business, so I propose to leave it at that.

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: I must ask that Senator Fallon be allowed to continue uninterrupted.

Mr. Fallon: With regard to Senator Cassidy's question regarding the problem of television, I would say to the Senator that, while strictly speaking it is not a matter for the Leader of the House to report to the House on matters currently before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, I feel it would be of benefit to Members if I brought them up to date on this matter and, indeed, on the matter raised by Senator Ó Foighil as well. It is expected that the in-House televising, that is the internal monitors, should be in place and televising should commence late November or early December and that broadcasting proper should commence after the Christmas recess, probably nearer to Easter. The time lag between the commencement of in-House television and broadcasting is to allow for a very necessary experimental period and [1207] also to allow for the recruitment and training of all the technical staff. The rules of coverage are being discussed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges at present.

Senator Cassidy also referred to a smoother running, as it were, of the House. I think I know the kind of things he is talking about and it is certainly something that is ongoing. I have had an informal chat with the Clerk of the Seanad, as has the Government Whip, Senator G.V. Wright, regarding this matter. Certainly there are loopholes in Standing Orders which I feel need to be closed — for example, the election of the Cathaoirleach. The Clerk acts as Chairman until a Cathaoirleach is elected, but in so doing he has no power over the debate. That kind of situation is something on which recommendations have to be made. The question of the summoning of the Seanad for a special sitting, we had that recently. Again, that is something that could be looked at. There are other problems generally which need to be examined and improved upon and that is something we will do in the future.

Senator Ó Foighil spoke about the position of the translation service. I am aware that the Senator received a letter from the Cathaoirleach in regard to this matter. For the benefit of all the Senators, I want to inform them that there is a technical matter involved. The committee had to change their desired option of having a remote location translation system to an on-site system on the technical advice of the people from the Office of Public Works. The enforced change in plan has meant a delay. We all hoped the system would be installed for this particular session. However, the committee have been assured that the booth and the other technical requirements will be installed during the next session. I want to stress to Senator Ó Foighil and other Senators that it is a technical matter. It was technically impossible to do the work as the Committee on Procedure and Privileges had asked. May I also comment on a matter [1208] that has been raised over the last number of years regarding the sound system. My information is that the sound system has been greatly improved in recent weeks.

Senator Costello asked for the programme of work. Senator Ryan sarcastically asked about the amount of work we have been doing over the past number of months. To date we have had 47 sittings in this year. Hopefully, we will sit another 14, 15 or 16 times, which will bring us well over 60 sittings.

Mr. B. Ryan: The Senator must know something we do not know.

Mr. Fallon: I am saying hopefully. That being so——

An Cathaoirleach: The Leader of the House without interruption, please.

Mr. Fallon: ——it would compare very favourably with other years. For example, the average annual sittings for the years 1965-71 was 33 days. The average annual sittings for 1972-78 was 37 days. For the years 1979-86, the average was 42.3 days. I am saying that, if we continue as I hope we will, we will have sittings this year of over 60 days. In the sittings of the Seanad in July alone, over a total of 10 days was over 100 hours. In 1972 for the full year we sat 187 hours in total. In 1980 we had 176 hours in total.

Mr. Norris: Can I ask the Senator——

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator cannot do that as the Leader of the House is replying.

Mr. Fallon: In 1983 we sat 232 hours. We are doing a lot of work in the Seanad.

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: Order. The Leader of the House without interruption.

Mr. Fallon: Senator Liam Cosgrave referred to something which is not appropriate to the Order of Business, as [1209] did Senator Norris, namely, the question of secretaries.

I have no information regarding the change of the law concerning homosexuality as the Senator asked. At this point I am not accepting Item No. 78, which was proposed by the Senator and seconded by another Senator.

Senator Hourigan referred to agriculture. As Senators know, we are meeting tomorrow to discuss that problem. Senator McGowan raised something which is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Senator Ross's first point was not appropriate to the Order of Business. He spoke about the pieces of legislation and he wants to knows about new Bills. The position regarding this problem — Senator Costello also asked this — is that in the legislative programme for this session it is proposed to have the Public Hospitals (Amendment) Bill, the Criminal Damage Bill, the International Development Association (Amendment) Bill, the Child Abduction and Enforcement of Custody Orders Bill, Destructive Insects and Pests (Amendment) Bill, Irish Land Dissolution Bill, Fóir Teo. Bill, Radiological Protection Bill, Sea Pollution Bill, The Child Care Bill which is at Report Stage as is the Companies Bill. The latter was a Seanad Bill.

The Bills in draft and which I hope will he taken before Christmas include the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, the National Roads Authority Bill, the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, the Exchange Controls Bill, the Patents Bill and the Part-time Workers Protection Bill. There are three Seanad Bills as follows: The Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill, the Contractual Obligations (Applicable Law) Bill and the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) (Amendment) Bill.

The question raised by Senator [1210] O'Keeffe was not appropriate to the Order of Business as well as the point raised by Senator Martin Cullen. Senator Jackman again raised a matter to which I gave what I thought was the proper answer at the time and I can only add to that and say that is still the position. It seems to me it is a matter for a body other than the Seanad to set about doing what the Senator desires in regard to that matter. Senator Costello seconded the proposal to take Item No. 78 which I am not agreeing to. He also asked for a legislative programme which I have already given. Senator Lanigan made a comment regarding Item No. 78.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Norris has moved an amendment to the Order of Business: “That Item No. 11, motion 78, be inserted before Item No. 6.” Contrary to what the Leader of the House believes, the amendment was not seconded.

Mr. Costello: I said I seconded it.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator said he supported it. He did not formally second it. He said he supported Senator Norris.

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: I do not like that remark, Senator Ryan. Because of the circumstances I find myself in on this matter, even though it is required that where a Senator proposes an amendment to the Order of Business another Senator must second it, I will allow the Senator to second the amendment at this time. It is only because of the exceptional circumstances. It was not formally seconded before now.

Mr. Costello: I second Item No. 78.

Question put: “That Item No. 11, motion 78, be inserted before Item No. 6.”

The Seanad divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 30.

[1211]Cosgrave, Liam.

Costello, Joe.

Cullen, Martin.

Dardis, John.

Harte, John.

Hederman, Carmencita.

Hourigan, Richard V.

Howard, Michael.

Jackman, Mary.

Keogh, Helen.

McDonald, Charlie.

McMahon, Larry.

[1212]Manning, Maurice.

Naughten, Liam.

Neville, Daniel.

Norris, David.

Ó Foighil, Pól.

O'Reilly, Joe.

O'Toole, Joe.

Ross, Shane P.N.

Ryan, Brendan.

Ryan, John.

Staunton, Myles.

Upton, Pat.

Níl

Bennett, Olga.

Bohan, Eddie.

Byrne, Hugh.

Byrne, Seán.

Cassidy, Donie.

Conroy, Richard.

Fallon, Seán.

Farrell, Willie.

Finneran, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Tom.

Foley, Denis.

Hanafin, Des.

Haughey, Seán F.

Honan, Tras.

Hussey, Thomas.

Kiely, Rory.

Lanigan, Michael.

Lydon, Don.

McCarthy, Seán.

McGowan, Paddy.

McKenna, Tony.

Mooney, Paschal.

Mullooly, Brian.

O'Brien, Francis.

Ó Cuív, Éamon.

O'Donovan, Denis A.

O'Keeffe, Batt.

Ormonde, Donal.

Ryan, Eoin David.

Wright, G.V.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Norris and Costello; Níl, Senators Wright and McKenna.

Question declared lost.

Order of Business agreed to.