Seanad Éireann - Volume 142 - 23 February, 1995
Order of Business.
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
Ms O'Sullivan: Today's Order of Business is Item 1, with a sos from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. It is proposed that speakers will each have 20 minutes as it is the only Item to be taken today. This will give some flexibility. Matters on the Adjournment will be taken at the conclusion of business.
Mr. Wright Mr. Wright
Mr. Wright: The Order of Business is agreed. I welcome that more time will be given to those who wish to contribute on Item 1.
I ask the Acting Leader of the House to confirm that next week's Order of Business will include Item 3, the Arterial Drainage (Amendment) Bill, and that Government time will be made available in the Whips notice. I also ask the Leader to ensure that the norm as regards Private Members' time will not relate to that Bill, although it is being taken as Private Members' Business.
With regard to the daily reports by the Minister for Defence on various defence matters, it is time the House got an opportunity to debate the Price Waterhouse report.
Mr. O'Toole Mr. O'Toole
Mr. O'Toole: We accept the Order of Business. However, in the last number of weeks we have raised a number of issues with the Leader of the House and we would like a response. The Leader gave a commitment that there would be a full debate on education with the Minister and we would like a date for that debate.
Almost a month ago we raised a question and received a positive response from the Leader regarding a debate dealing with a number of foreign policy issues in various parts of the world rather than dealing with each one individually. I wish to make it clear to the acting Leader that we will be pushing for dates on those matters. In terms of co-operation, we need dates, although  we are not asking that they be taken today.
I am a little concerned about the point raised by Senator Wright on the speaking time in Private Members' Business. This has implications for other groups, although I do not wish to be anything other than supportive of the efforts to get a Bill through. The Independents have always said that the House should be open to taking Private Members' Bills. We are supportive of this, but I wish to ensure that we have time to make our contributions. Although we support the point made, we would like some type of Whips' agreement on speaking time, while giving due deference to the proposer of the Bill. Perhaps this matter could be discussed.
Ms Honan Ms Honan
Ms Honan: I move:
“That Item 4 be taken before Item 1.”
Item 4 is the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, 1995: First Stage. As Senators are aware, two recent judgments by Mr. Justice Paul Carney have shown that as the law currently stands, and specifically section 5 of the Punishment of Incest Act, 1908, all offences under that section must be heard in camera. As a consequence, the press is not admitted to trials of incest cases at all. There are further major implications for health boards and other welfare agencies arising from the in camera rule and the Bill proposes to rectify this situation.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: I second the amendment. I share the concern of Senator Honan about the aftermath of the Carney judgment and I believe the Oireachtas is being invited to legislate in this matter. In fact, I had contacted Kieran McGrath of the social workers, and various legal colleagues had a Bill well on the way to drafting; but I was contacted by the Progressive Democrats who had the same idea and we decided to cooperate on this matter. I would look  very much to the Leader of the House — I discussed this with Senator Manning — to the possibility of accepting legislative initiatives from this side of the House. That would be very appropriate.
Mr. McGowan Mr. McGowan
Mr. McGowan: Some weeks back I asked the Leader if he could arrange a debate on the allocation of funding by the National Roads Authority. The Authority announced the amount allocated yesterday, £212 million. I again ask the Acting Leader for a debate on this matter as soon as possible on the grounds that the Border counties have been badly treated in this regard. I am not blaming any Government, party or Minister. It was the previous Government who set up the National Roads Authority. That Authority is totally discriminating against the west and the Border counties. When he was on this side of the House, Senator Manning consistently asked for a debate on this issue. I urgently ask, and I hope I have the support of all Members of the House, for a debate on the basis on which funding is allocated to the west? Out of a total allocation of £212 million, my county got only £3 million for a national network road structure. Our county is planning to develop its tourism industry. This House deserves the opportunity to discuss this serious discrimination against those areas that need the money the most.
Mr. Magner Mr. Magner
Mr. Magner: The House should try to facilitate in every way the issue raised by Senator Honan. It is important and has to be addressed. The fact that it comes from the Opposition is neither here nor there; it is a real live issue and should be dealt with as such. The Government side should do all in its power to facilitate that and I ask the Leader to accommodate that.
I also support Senator O'Toole's proposition on having a debate on Foreign Affairs. As we know, a White Paper on Foreign Affairs is being prepared and this House may be best placed to make a significant contribution  to it, with one caveat. We are inclined to use a scattergun approach, go over the entire foreign affairs spectrum and never get a coherent message across; the important points sometimes slip over the side. With the help of the Whips, we could perhaps discuss how to structure such a debate so that we have a real input and get real responses from the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
I support this proposition. It should be, as Senator Manning suggested yesterday, an omnibus debate. We should also structure it better by getting our own act together so we can elicit responses in a way that the Department must give them. We should not assist them too much by talking too broadly on the matter.
Mr. Daly Mr. Daly
Mr. Daly: What is the current position on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs? I was a member of that committee, as were some of the other Senators. The intention is that additional Senators will be on the new Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. The committee is currently in limbo. It has not met since before Christmas and the Government has not clearly indicated when the new committee will be established or what shape or form it will take. Could the Leader give us a clear indication in regard to that committee because many of the issues raised here could well be discussed there?
Mr. McDonagh Mr. McDonagh
Mr. McDonagh: Easter, which is very much on the horizon, is a time when the various teacher organisations come together to discuss issues relevant to the past, present and, more importantly, the future of education. It is an appropriate time to discuss educational matters in this Chamber. I strongly support Senator O'Toole's call for a debate on all aspects of education with the Minister for Education present and I hope it will come on stream in the near future.
Mr. Finneran Mr. Finneran
Mr. Finneran: Yesterday, the Leader of the House, in response to my query on the Kelly Fitzgerald case, indicated that he thought it might not be appropriate  for the Minister for Heath to attend the House and make a statement on that matter. I had also asked about the possibility of having an inquiry. In response to that, could the Acting Leader ask the Minister for Health to implement the provisions and sections of the Child Care Act, 1991? I understand that out of a total of 79 sections. only 17 have been implemented. To date, the protection of children is being implemented under an old British Act of 1908. If the Minister cannot come to this House to respond to the Kelly Fitzgerald query, he could go about implementing provisions and sections of the Child Care Act. I ask the Acting Leader to consult with the Minister on that and to inform me if he is prepared to do it?
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
Ms O'Sullivan: In regard to Senator Wright's queries on Item 3, a debate will be taken in Private Members' time next Wednesday evening. It will continue during Government Private Members' time the next day. The amount of time allocated for speakers will have to be considered by the Whips; we will hope to reach agreement before the debate takes place. I also acknowledge the Senator's point concerning the Price Waterhouse report and we will return to the Senator on that matter as soon as possible.
As regards Senator O'Toole's and Senator McDonagh's comments about having a debate on education and foreign affairs, I take it that they are looking for a specific time. I cannot give that today, but I hope we can do it later. hopefully next week.
Mr. O'Toole Mr. O'Toole
Mr. O'Toole: We hear what the Acting Leader says.
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
Ms O'Sullivan: We hear what the Senators are saying.
Senator O'Toole and Senator Magner raised the point of foreign policy. What Senator Magner said about having some structure on such a debate, with agreement from all parties in the House, should be taken on board and we would  hope to have that debate as soon as possible. Various Members in this House have called for a debate on various aspects of foreign policy and that should also take place as soon as possible.
Senator Daly asked about when the new Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs will meet. I understand that it still has not been agreed what should be done on its makeup, but I will seek to get information for the Senator on that issue today.
With regard to Senator Honan's and Senator Norris's query on Item 4 — Senator Magner also spoke on it — I support the raising of this debate as soon as possible; I have spoken to Senator Manning as well. The issue arose out of a recent court case. We will accept taking Item 4 on the Order Paper, which means, in effect, that the Bill can be printed. We do support, and would like to facilitate, input and debate from all sides of the House. That is very much in the spirit of the Seanad. We will accept Item 4 to go on the Order Paper.
Senator McGowan's question concerned the allocation of moneys by the National Roads Authority. We were notified of this yesterday. I take the Senator's point that this is an important issue for people and I hope we can facilitate a debate on that matter as soon as possible.
Senator Finneran raised the Kelly Fitzgerald case and the Child Care Act. Some elements of the Act have already been brought into operation by the various health boards, but I accept that there are some sections that are not being implemented. I will convey the Senator's concerns to the Minister for Health. As the Leader said yesterday, it may not be suitable to debate a specific case in this House, but the general issues of the Act are of concern to us all.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: An amendment had been proposed to the Order of Business by Senator Honan.
 Amendment agreed to.
Order of Business, as amended, agreed to.
Seanad Éireann 142 Order of Business.