Seanad Éireann - Volume 130 - 24 October, 1991

Order of Business.

Mr. Wright: Item No. 1 will be taken until 4 p.m. with a sos between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Mr. Manning: I would like to raise a question which is exercising the minds of people at the moment. That is the reported moves behind closed doors by unnamed people to remove one of the most successful leaders this country has known for quite some time. I am, of course, referring to the Cork County Board and Billy Morgan.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Manning: May I say to the Leader of the House that I was not happy with the reply which he gave yesterday about the debate on Northern Ireland and I would put him on notice that I will be raising that again. Likewise, I was not very happy with the reply on the call for a general debate. Again, I will be pushing that point next week. On the general question, the principle of allowing Private Members' Bills to be printed — in other words, having them ordered for [123] First Stage — is important. I would ask the Leader of the House to look very carefully at this and to give favourable consideration to having the various First Stages of the Private Members' Bills — the Suicide Bill, the Interpretations Bills and the Intermediate Education (Amendment) Bill — printed so that we can see what is there and see if it is worth going on to Second Stage with them.

Mr. O'Toole: On the Order of Business yesterday I told the Leader that I wanted to know specifically Government plans for the initiation of legislation in this House over this session. I have a specific question on the list of Bills which the Government intend to initiate in this House. On the one hand, there seems to be a huge volume of legislation which is waiting to be addressed and, on the other hand, this House is not clear on what its business is to be. The two things do not match. I will continue ad nauseam pushing this point everyday on the Order of Business until we get a properly established system of working out business. I know that people on both sides of the House agree on this. It is not an intergroup matter, it is something that needs to be done and whatever pressure needs to be put on the Government we intend doing it. Yesterday on the Order of Business the Independent group proposed an amendment to the effect that the item which is Item 8 on today's Order Paper, that a “Bill entitled an Act to establish a register of interests of members of the Oireachtas and for related purposes” be published. The Government side opposed that. Every day gives added reason and a greater need for the publication of this Bill.

I am again proposing an amendment to the Order of Business today and this will continue to be the case. I do not intend pushing it to a vote today but it certainly will be put to a vote by this group at least on a weekly basis. I know that many Senators on the other side of the House, as well as on this side, take a similar view. It is not trying to cut the ground from anybody, it is a view that is [124] widely held and in deference to people who are watching public life and politicians we need to address this issue.

On the question of reform of the House, we will have to have a debate and this time a debate on the basis of proposals from the Government side as to how they would see the Houses being reformed. We have had two or three debates on this over the last few years. On each occasion Members on both sides of the House offered views, many of which did not relate to party or group positions. It is now time to ask the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to come back with a list of proposals which will be discussed here and decisions taken on them. I understood there was a decision taken that Private Members' time would be taken in one run each week with less time. We made the concessions that were necessary. I think that is important. We had Private Members' time last night which will not be concluded until next week. It makes an awful lot more sense to conclude it either within the week or better again within the night.

Dr. Upton: May I ask the Leader of the House if he would be prepared to make time available for a debate on neutrality, given the announcement of the EC Commissioner that Irish neutrality is about to end and that this is about to happen fairly soon?

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Norris.

Mr. Norris: With your permission, I would like to clarify something that occurred here yesterday and that was an exchange between myself and Senator Mooney when an interpretation was placed on my words. May I just have the opportunity to say that I intended no implication whatever that Senator Mooney would either be involved with or sympathise with violence of any kind?

An Cathaoirleach: I will give Senator Norris 20 seconds to clarify it.

Mr. Norris: I think I have already more [125] or less clarified it. I have known Senator Mooney for many years, particularly in this House. I have worked with him. I am aware of his work for the Birmingham Six in which I fully support him. I am completely convinced that he has no sympathy with the men of violence and that he has condemned violence consistently. I stick by what I said but if, on perusal of the record, it appears that it is possible to draw that inference I will certainly be more than happy to withdraw it.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator could do extreme damage at this point if he were to continue.

Mr. Norris: Have I?

An Cathaoirleach: No, but you were just about to. You were on the edge.

Mr. Norris: May I then continue, this time deliberately doing a little bit of damage? May I ask the Acting Leader if he shares my revulsion at the agreement signed in Paris with regard to the state of Kampuchea and the involvement of mass murderers, the like of which have not been seen since Adolf Hitler, and if he will pass this sentiment on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Collins, who appeared to give assent to a notion that Ireland might actually police this iniquitous betrayal of the people of Cambodia?

I would like to support what Senator Manning said with regard to Private Members' Bills and ask the Leader of the House whether there is any intention whatever of advancing, for example, item No. 3, the Interpretation (Amendment) Bill, which has got as far as the Order for the Second Stage. It would enhance the standing of the House if, after 30 years, we had some indication that there was a degree of consensus involved in parliamentary life in this country that would allow for the initiation of Bills from sources other than the Government.

I would like to support Senator O'Toole and to second his amendment to the Order of Business, although I [126] understand he may not wish to press it to a vote, that Item No. 8 be taken first, the Register of Members of the Oireachtas Interests Bill, 1991. I do so with a certain degree of irony because I recall placing amendments to the Companies Bill when it was going through the House which would have had this effect at least partly and would also have required the disclosure of contributions to political parties by business interests. This was opposed by virtually every party. I am very glad that at least there is a kind of crack in the unanimity of protecting the capitalist interests of this country.

Mr. S. Haughey: I am delighted to see so many Senators supporting National Rose week. As you know, the proceeds are in aid of epilepsy and autism and the cause is very worthy of our support.

I do not necessarily want to pre-empt what the Leader of the House is going to say but in relation to what Senator Upton said to the Leader in relation to Irish neutrality I would have thought that today's day long debate in relation to the developments in the European Community would deal very adequately with the whole question of neutrality and perhaps it could be raised there.

Pól Ó Foighil: Cuireadh ceist inné faoi Bhillí bheith i nGaeilge, chomh maith le chuile shórt eile. Tóg an páipéar seo, tá sé i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla, agus is é an freagra a thug tú dom, a Chathaoirligh, gur nós é. Chuir mé síos rún tairiscinte ar maidin agus deir tú liom anois nach ceadmhach é seo a phlé anseo. Ba mhaith liom a fháil amach ón gCeannaire nó ó dhuine ar bith cén bealach atá agam leis an rud seo a chur chun cinn, chun go mbeadh an Bille seo, nó aon Bhille a fhoilsítear, ar fáil i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla. An dara ceist atá agam, a Chathaoirligh, an mbeadh an Teach seo sásta iarthar na hÉireann agus an drochstaid atá ann a phlé.

Cuireann sé an-iontas agus an-díomá orm rud mar seo a fheiceáil, go mbeidh seimeanár i nGaillimh Dé Luain seo chugainn, “Developing the West together”, [127] agus feictear dúinn agus d'easpaig na hÉireann uile go bhfuil an scéal chomh dona sin anois go bhfuilimid ag iarraidh go dtiocfadh iarthar na hÉireann uilig le chéile. Ba mhaith an rud go mbeadh deis againn an cheist a phlé sa Teach seo. Iarraim ar an gCeannaire go gcuirfí am ar fáil le haghaidh díospóireachta, i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla, nó sa dá theanga, faoi iarthar na hÉireann.

An Cathaoirleach: I made the position regarding the translation of Bills and the presentation of Bills in the Irish language known to you in writing yesterday. If you wish to discuss the matter further with me in my office I will be glad to give a verbal clarification of the situation. I realise your interest but as it stands at the moment there is little that can be done to change the situation.

Mr. O'Toole: On a point of order that may be helpful: chuaigh moladh ón Committee on Procedure and Privileges dhá bhliain ó shin maidir leis an bpointe seo. D'ardaigh me féin é. Thuigeamar nach rabhadar in ann an t-aistriúchán a dhéanamh láithreach bonn mar go mbeadh stór focal de na focail theicniúla agus mar sin ag teastáil chun an obair a dhéanamh i gceart. Bhí i gceist sórt glossary a chur leis. That proposal went from our Committee on Procedure and Privileges about 18 months ago, in the last session of the previous Seanad and I think it should be resurrected again.

An Cathaoirleach: There is a slight difference between what you are referring to and what An Seanadóir Ó Foighil is seeking. Nevertheless, in order to assist An Seanadóir Ó Foighil we should discuss the matter and maybe our recommendations can go elsewhere subsequently.

Mr. Mooney: I would like to thank my distinguished colleague, Senator Norris, for his clarification of the remarks he made yesterday. I am sure Senator Norris did not mean to make any such inference and I am very grateful to him because [128] as, both of us agree, words can be very damaging in the North-South context. I am sure he would also agree, as indeed would practically all Members of this House, that while we may have differing views on the question of Border roads, the problem could be very quickly solved if the Provisional IRA were to cease their campaign of violence along the Border and then all Border roads would be open. I am grateful to the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to respond briefly.

I concur with the remarks which have been made and are currently being made on all sides of the House in relation to the reform of this Chamber and its activities. It may be of interest to the House — and perhaps the Leader may have some further clarification on this — that it has been a source of debate within our own group on a continuing basis over the past few months culminating in a number of proposals being put before our group as late as yesterday, prior to the sitting and prior to many of the comments that were subsequently made here. Among these was the suggestion that perhaps there could be an agreement across the House for an ad hoc committee to look at various proposals or, alternatively, that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges themselves, who have tremendous power over the activities of the House could put forward proposals.

I am not sure whether I would totally agree with my friend and colleague, Senator O'Toole, that it is exclusively the domain of the Government side to make proposals in relation to the reform of the House. I would like to think that perhaps there could be a consensus emerging and I would support any initiative that would help to run this House even more efficiently and in a more relevant way. I say this by way of clarification and perhaps the Leader of the House in his reply may be able to add something to what has already been said.

An Cathaoirleach: The Leader of the House yesterday indicated his intention [129] to allow a debate on this matter which would give ample opportunity.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Ag tagairt don cheist atá ardaithe maidir le haistriú Bille, sílim féin gurb é an chaoi cheart tabhairt faoi ná, i dtosach báire, go bpléifeadh an Comhchoiste don Ghaeilge é mar is chuige sin a cuireadh ar bun é. Tá go leor le plé sa cheist seo mar tá deiseanna nua-aimseartha ann anois — deiseanna ríomhaireachta le haistriúchán a dhéanamh ó theanga go teanga. Cheapfainn féin gurbh é an rud ab fhearr a dhéanamh, go bpléifeadh an comhchoiste é, ach ba mhaith liom a fhiafraí den Cheannaire, dá gcuirfeadh an comhchoiste tuarascáil ar fáil an mbeadh sé sásta go bpléifí sa Teach é? Sílim gurb é sin an bealach ceart le tabhairt faoi.

Maidir leis an moladh ón Seanadóir Ó Foighil, díospóireacht bheith ann faoin iarthar, b'fhearr liom go mbeadh a leithéid de dhíospóireacht go ginearálta — ní maith liom an cineál reservation atá ag daoine maidir leis an iarthar. Is cuid den tír iomlán é. B'fhearr liom na fadhbanna sin a phlé i gcomhthéacs na díospóireachta a bheidh ar bun an tseachtain seo chugainn maidir leis an Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

Mr. Neville: I would like to ask the Leader of the House to convey our concern at the growing chaos in the District and Circuit Courts due to the strike of clerical officers and clerical assistants. I understand this dispute is likely to escalate next week. I also understand that a minuscule amount of cost would settle this strike and I would like the Leader to convey our concern to the Minister for Justice.

Mrs. Honan: I would like to support anything that might reform this House and give it back the high profile it once had. I did not speak yesterday because there were so many speaking and in the end nobody was quite sure what others said. I do not agree with Senator O'Toole — this is not the first time — that proposals should come only from this side of [130] the House. It would be far better to do this on an all-party basis.

I would like also to make a request to the Cathaoirleach. I understand there was confusion during the summer about who were members of certain committees of this House. If it is not too much trouble to the Cathaoirleach and to his office, each Member should be supplied with the names of the members of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and the members of the Committee of Selection of this House. You are the one who should be told when even these small problems arise. I totally support everyone's efforts to reform the Seanad.

An Cathaoirleach: There is no difficulty in the circulation of the names of the members of the two committees referred to. I hope that will satisfy everybody. I call on the Acting Leader of the House to reply.

Mr. Wright: May I first of all say in response to Senator Manning's concern about leadership that there is nothing sinister in the fact that the Leader of the House, Senator Fallon, is not here this morning.

On Northern Ireland, the Leader has given his views on that on several occasions and I do not intend to add to them.

On Private Members' Bills, I certainly would have no problem with the Whips and maybe the Leaders of the parties coming together on how they might be handled in the future.

Reform has been mentioned by several Senators on all sides of the House. The Leader made it clear yesterday that he would certainly be in favour of a debate. I think maybe we should get together, instead of having a debate across the floor each week, and have a discussion on reform. It is in the interests of all in the House that this should take place. There was some doubt about it but certainly it is part of the Programme for Government of last week that the Houses should be reformed and I think the initiative has to come from ourselves here and it should be an all-party one.

[131] Item No. 8 has been mentioned — the Register of Members of the Oireachtas Interests Bill. Maybe that should be kept for another day on the basis that we would discuss Private Members' Bills.

Senator Upton and Senator Haughey mentioned a debate on neutrality. We have a debate all day today on Europe and obviously if it is the House's wish in future that we discuss it in detail I am sure that can be arranged through normal channels.

I will certainly pass on Senator Neville's sentiments to the Minister for Justice.

An Cathaoirleach: The question is: “That the Order of Business be item No. 1.” Is that agreed?

Mr. O'Toole: There is an amendment.

An Cathaoirleach: I took it you indicated that you did not intend to press it this morning.

Mr. O'Toole: I will not press it to a vote.

An Cathaoirleach: The lines of communication are open between us, obviously.

Order of Business agreed to.