Seanad Éireann - Volume 153 - 11 December, 1997

Order of Business.

Mr. Cassidy:The Order of Business is items 1 and 2. All Stages of item 1 are to be concluded by 2 p.m. Contributions are not to exceed 20 minutes for spokespersons and 15 minutes for all other Senators. In view of the serious situation facing the people of Clonmel I propose to take statements on Seagate between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. with item 2 to be taken at 3 p.m.

Mr. Manning: We have a small difficulty with the Order of Business. It is a well established principle that the House does not have closure motions. Item 1 must conclude by 2 p.m. It may well be concluded before then but, on principle, we will not accept that this item could be guillotined.

I am glad the Leader has made time available to discuss Seagate. It is an enormous tragedy for the people of Clonmel and surrounding areas. The Leader has responded quickly in making time available.

Mr. Norris: The House recently had a detailed and serious debate on the question of refugees and asylum seekers. However, although we requested it, we did not receive any information from the Minister on the full implementation of the Refugee Act and on questions regarding the procedures under which people are either accepted for the purposes of asylum or have this facility denied to them. Will the Leader ask the Minister to attend the House and give full and clear details of all these matters, especially the procedures under which the status of applicants is determined? Those who saw the series of television programmes on RTÉ this week will realise the urgency of this matter.

Mr. Gallagher: I have given you notice of a matter, Sir, which I understand you are still considering. It may be more appropriate to request the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order 29 to discuss Seagate. The Leader has suggested we discuss it at 2 p.m. today. However, it [186] should be the first matter to be discussed because there is no item on today's Order Paper which takes precedence over this as a matter of urgent national importance.

This is a major blow for Clonmel. It is also——

An Cathaoirleach: We cannot discuss the matter now.

Mr. Gallagher: I understand that, but this is a matter of major national importance because it also affects Cork and Derry. It should be the first matter to be discussed. Will you, Sir, and the Leader give my motion priority over all other business today? The Government knew about this three months ago but the workers only heard about it on the radio yesterday. That is not good enough.

An Cathaoirleach: I will rule on the matter submitted by you later.

Labhrás Ó Murchú: I welcome the announcement by the Leader that there will be statements on the devastating news from Seagate in Clonmel. Will the Leader urge the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to attend the debate? The Dáil and Seanad will go into recess shortly when the momentum for remedying the situation in Clonmel could easily be lost. Every Member would like to help the Tánaiste on this matter. I urge the Leader to see if that is possible.

Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 1 to the Order of Business:

That statements on Seagate closure be taken before item 1.

This issue is engaging the minds of people throughout the country. It is a crisis which has major implications and it is proper that the House shows its concern by taking this as the first item on the Order of Business.

Mr. Callanan: I support what the Leader said this morning about making time available for statements on the closure of Seagate and its effect on Clonmel and Cork.

The continuing crisis in the beef industry means we should support the Minister for Agriculture and Food in his endeavours to provide intervention for 6,000 tonnes of beef by Friday. This is important particularly if these difficulties continue next year. We will disturb the market, particularly in Russia, if we release beef from intervention at this stage. If the Russians believe it is possible to get intervention beef they may not become involved in the Irish beef market. It is important that the Leader raises these issues with the Minister.

Mr. S. Ryan: I support my two colleagues' request under Standing Order 29 for time to be made available immediately to discuss this issue.

[187] An Cathaoirleach: That does not arise at this point. Is the Senator seconding the amendment to the Order of Business?

Mr. S. Ryan: I second the amendment. It is important to discuss this issue which will be one of the most important in the lifetime of this Seanad. The management and the Government knew this would happen three months ago.

An Cathaoirleach: It is only necessary to second the amendment. A speech is not allowed on the Order of Business.

Mr. S. Ryan: The workers want someone to speak for them, particularly as this company is not unionised. It is scandalous that they were only told yesterday when the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the management knew about it three months ago. Some of the managerial rats left the ship over the past three months.

Mr. Lanigan: I am glad the Leader made time available to discuss the closure of Seagate. Senator Seán Ryan's remarks are inappropriate. If he wants to discuss this issue, he should wait until this afternoon. I ask the Leader to extend the time allowed for this debate because a number of Members want to speak. It is not just a matter for Derry, Cork and Clonmel as many people from Kilkenny, Waterford, Limerick and south Tipperary also work in Seagate.

Mr. T. Hayes: I welcome the Leader's announcement that we will have a discussion on the closure of Seagate. This is a devastating blow for the workers in my constituency of South Tipperary, many of whom I spoke to last night and this morning. I hope the Tánaiste is present at 2 o'clock for this important debate. She was not here last week for a Private Members' motion on another Tipperary town. She should be here to listen to the views expressed on behalf of the workers.

Mr. Dardis: The closure of Seagate is a blow not just for Tipperary and the surrounding area but for the country. I am sure you, a Chathaoirligh, will make a decision about the request under Standing Order 29. The Leader has made time available to discuss this matter, which is the way to approach it. We should extend the debate so that any Member who wants to speak can do so.

It would be desirable if the Tánaiste was here but she spent yesterday evening and this morning in Clonmel where she should be. While we hope she is back in time for this debate, her priority is to speak to the management, the workers, IDA Ireland——

Mr. T. Hayes: She has done that already.

Mr. Dardis: ——and the task force which has been set up to ensure that alternative employment is secured for the people of Clonmel. We [188] will endeavour to ensure the Minister or someone on her behalf is here for the debate.

Ms O'Meara: I support the amendment to the Order of Business. This is an important issue which should be taken immediately after the Order of Business. It not only has implications for the people of Clonmel, north Tipperary and the rest of Munster, but also for the social partnership. This is a clear breach of Partnership 2000 and we will see its reverberations in the future. I urge the Leader and other Members of the House to support this amendment.

Ms Cox: I was not going to speak on the closure of Seagate because the Leader has made time available this afternoon, but it is imperative that Members on the other side of the House do not make cheap political statements on this issue.

Mr. Manning: The Senator is not here long enough to lecture people.

An Cathaoirleach: All the points made on this matter have been made in good faith.

Mr. S. Ryan: The Senator should withdraw that remark.

Mr. Manning: We do not need lectures from the Senator on how to be responsible.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Cox on the Order of Business.

Mr. Dardis: That is not an original statement; the Senator heard it on the radio this morning.

Mr. Gallagher: There were no cheap political statements.

Ms Cox: It is important to fully support the efforts being made to help the people in Clonmel get replacement jobs. This type of discussion is not constructive. Anyone who wishes to make a statement should do so this afternoon.

Mr. Cosgrave: I am sure all Members will join with me in extending our sympathy and best wishes to the young Army private and others who were injured in Kilworth Camp.

I support what Senator Manning said about having guillotine motions two days after each other. I ask the Leader to make time available between Second Stage and Committee Stage to allow amendments to be tabled.

Yesterday I raised the issue of Members' facilities. I did not table an amendment to the Order of Business because of comments made by the Leader. I was disappointed, however, that the Leader did not contact me or mention it this morning. I and my colleagues are entitled to raise this issue. In the Official Report, 17 September 1997, vol. 152, col. 28, the Leader said:

I wholeheartedly support the request for an urgent meeting of the Committee on Procedure [189] and Privileges to discuss office facilities for Senators. The Cathaoirleach is one of the convenors of that committee. The new Senators are disappointed with the facilities available to them. Those of us who have served for some time tend to accept them. In comparison to office facilities in private enterprise, the facilities here are inadequate. I will do everything in my power to ensure they are upgraded immediately.

I propose to put down an amendment to the Order of Business “That business be interrupted before item 1; that time, not exceeding one hour, be afforded to Members; and that if the Government Chief Whip, Deputy Brennan, or someone on his behalf, attend.”

Mr. Connor: I second that proposal.

Mr. Norris: On a point of order, I understood that this matter was ordered for today and I was asked by my group to speak on it. This is why I did not raise it on the Order of Business.

An Cathaoirleach: That is not a point of order. The Senator has already spoken on the Order of Business. It is a matter for the Leader.

Mr. B. Ryan: My sympathies lie with Senator Cosgrave. Senator Norris is whispering to me to second the motion but I presume Fine Gael is capable of seconding its own motion. I asked my secretary to acquire a set of telephone directories for the entire country. However, I was told that it was not the practice to make them available as they were too expensive and that we had to buy them ourselves. It costs £6 for a set of telephone directories yet Leinster House cannot afford to supply them. I know it can afford to do so. Someone is playing games with Members of this House and it is time it stopped.

The news from Clonmel is appalling but would someone clarify the more appalling prospect of the loss of 2,000 promised jobs in Cork? Something stinks about this business. I am not blaming the Government but there is something of the worst aspects of multi-nationalism about this matter. We need to take care of those who have suffered in Clonmel and to find out why this has happened. This matter should be urgently discussed in detail. That should be done with a degree of passion but not conflict between Government and Opposition. This is too big an issue for a convenient row between them.

Mr. Glynn: I congratulate the Leader on providing time to discuss Seagate. I also support Senator Cosgrave's comments on the young, female member of the Defence Forces who was injured. As Government spokesperson on Defence I record my appreciation for the Defence Forces who are serving at home and overseas and do a marvellous job in presenting a good image of Ireland as an international peace-keeping nation.

[190] Mr. Mooney: A number of weeks ago I asked the Leader if he would consider a debate on emigration and emigrant issues in the next session. I reemphasise the necessity for such a debate in light of the annual report of the Irish centre in Camden Town which was published yesterday. The report states that there are an appallingly high number of homeless Irish citizens in London. Thirteen per cent of homeless people in London are Irish or of Irish descent. The report details some of the more horrific examples of neglected Irish citizens. One instance is of a man who died in a car park and whose skeleton was found several weeks later. This is only one dimension of the social and economic difficulties faced by Irish emigrants who have not enjoyed success abroad. They have not been part of the Celtic tiger's equivalent in the UK and other areas where the Irish settle. I would be grateful if the Leader would give consideration to providing Government time for a debate on emigrant issues.

Mr. Ross: I support the move of my friends on the left——

Mr. B. Ryan: One of those two words is untrue. I am not sure which one.

Mr. Norris: I am not on the Senator's left. The Senator's sense of geography is wrong.

Mr. B. Ryan: It is not only the Senator's sense of geography which is wrong.

Mr. Ross: I support the calls for an immediate debate on Seagate. I also support Senator Cosgrave's amendment. This is the first time that I can remember a Leas-Cathaoirleach being forced to raise such an issue. It should never have been allowed to reach this stage. It should have been solved long ago and the current situation does no credit to those who run the facilities of the House. It is a difficult situation for everyone. When looking at this issue we should also look at the Library which is terribly under-funded and under-staffed. The Library staff work extremely hard under difficult conditions. This matter denigrates the House and the work of Members who do not have proper research facilities.

Mr. Coghlan: I support Senator Cosgrave's remarks and register our strongest protest at the undue delay. I am reluctant to raise the other matters which I have been pursuing as I presume the Leader still has nothing to say to me. However, the Leader has easy access to Government. Perhaps he would revise the timescale for replying to me.

Mr. Cassidy: Many Senators raised the issue of Seagate and called for a debate on the matter. I propose an open ended debate with eight minutes for each Senator if the House is agreeable. As a result, statements on social housing will start at the conclusion of statements on Seagate which will start at 2 p.m. The Tánaiste is in Clonmel [191] today. We will do everything possible to see if she can attend the debate. However, the Dáil is also taking statements on Seagate.

Senator Norris raised concerns about refugees and I will come back to him on this issue tomorrow morning. Some Senators supported Senator Cosgrave's comments. The matter is at an advanced stage. The Senator has taken this action and he is a respected Member of the House and a constitutional office holder. This makes the matter more serious. Senator Cosgrave is facing a new secretarial problem. When you were in that position, A Chathaoirligh, Fianna Fáil had to supply you with a secretary. This is a new departure. As the former Leader, Senator Manning will know, new systems experience difficulties when being implemented. I am confident that the secretarial problem faced by Fine Gael will be addressed. It is 90 per cent solved this morning. If another Opposition party handed back its offices and accepted the electorates decision, Fine Gael's office problem would be addressed in five minutes. I have made every possible inquiry and request of a diplomatic nature but there are only a certain number of offices available in the House. Therefore, Members will have to accept the current position.

I make a final request to Senator Cosgrave to withdraw his amendment. At the conclusion of the Order of Business I propose to have a final meeting of the Leaders of the various groups in respect of this matter. If agreement cannot be reached among the Leaders, what chance do I have of obtaining authorisation for secretarial facilities from the Department of Finance? I am confident that I will obtain such authorisation today, but offices will have to be provided for the secretaries to begin work on Monday morning. As Leader of the House, I ask the Leas-Chathaoirleach to agree to today's Order of Business. If his requests are not met, he can raise his grievance tomorrow morning and, in addition to pointing the finger at the Leader of the House, he can point it elsewhere.

Mr. Norris: Will the Leader explain why the [192] requested debate will not take place following the Order of Business? We were given a commitment on this matter yesterday. The representative of the Independent Members cannot attend the meeting proposed by the Leader.

An Cathaoirleach: The Leader of the House is replying to the Order of Business.

Mr. Cassidy: I have been extremely patient in respect of this matter and I have done everything possible to resolve it.

Mr. Cosgrave: So have we.

Mr. Cassidy: I thank Senator Manning and his party for being patient. I wish that another party would play its part in this regard.

Mr. Manning: On the Order of Business, the Leader did not provide a guarantee that there would not be a closure on item 1. As business is now ordered there will be a closure on that item at 2 p.m. if it is not completed.

Mr. Cassidy: As has been requested, if amendments are tabled I will allow a short sos between Second Stage and Committee Stage.

Mr. Manning: My concern is that, on principle, a guillotine should not be applied to the Bill. However, it will be applied if business is ordered for the completion of item 1 not earlier than 2 p.m.

Mr. Cassidy: This matter can only be dealt with if there is co-operation from the House.

Mr. Manning: I am merely stating that we do not agree to a guillotine.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Costello moved amendment No. 1 to the Order of Business: “That statements on Seagate be taken before item 1”. Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Costello: Yes.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 28.

Caffrey, Ernie.

Coghlan, Paul.

Connor, John.

Cosgrave, Liam T.

Costello, Joe.

Cregan, Denis (Dino).

Doyle, Avril.

Doyle, Joe.

Gallagher, Pat.

Hayes, Tom.

Henry, Mary.

Manning, Maurice.

O'Meara, Kathleen.

Ryan, Seán.

Níl

Bonner, Enda.

Callanan, Peter.

Cassidy, Donie.

Cox, Margaret.

Dardis, John.

[193]Glynn, Camillus.

Keogh, Helen.

Kiely, Dan.

Kiely, Rory.

Lanigan, Mick.

Leonard, Ann.

Lydon, Don.

McGowan, Patrick.

Mooney, Paschal.

Farrell, Willie.

Finneran, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Liam.

Fitzgerald, Tom.

Gibbons, Jim.

[194]Moylan, Pat.

Norris, David.

O'Donovan, Denis.

Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

Ormonde, Ann.

Quill, Mairín.

Ross, Shane.

Ryan, Brendan.

Walsh, Jim.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Costello and Gallagher; Níl, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Keogh.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Cosgrave: I move amendment No. 2:

That business be interrupted before item 1 and that time, not exceeding one hour, be afforded to discuss facilities for Members.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 26.

Caffrey, Ernie.

Coghlan, Paul.

Connor, John.

Cosgrave, Liam T.

Costello, Joe.

Cregan, Denis (Dino).

Doyle, Avril.

Doyle, Joe.

Gallagher, Pat.

Henry, Mary.

Manning, Maurice.

Norris, David.

O'Meara, Kathleen.

Ross, Shane.

Ryan, Brendan.

Ryan, Seán.

Níl

Bohan, Eddie.

Bonner, Enda.

Callanan, Peter.

Cassidy, Donie.

Cox, Margaret.

Dardis, John.

Farrell, Willie.

Finneran, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Liam.

Fitzgerald, Tom.

Gibbons, Jim.

Glynn, Camillus.

Keogh, Helen.

Kiely, Dan.

Kiely, Rory.

Lanigan, Mick.

Leonard, Ann.

Lydon, Don.

McGowan, Patrick.

Mooney, Paschal.

Moylan, Pat.

O'Donovan, Denis.

Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

Ormonde, Ann.

Quill, Máirín.

Walsh, Jim.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Coghlan and Cregan; Níl, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Keogh.

Amendment declared lost.

Question put: “That the Order of Business be agreed to.”

The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 19.

Bohan, Eddie.

Bonner, Enda.

Callanan, Peter.

Cassidy, Donie.

Cox, Margaret.

Dardis, John.

Farrell, Willie.

Finneran, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Liam.

Fitzgerald, Tom.

Gibbons, Jim.

Glynn, Camillus.

Keogh, Helen.

Kiely, Dan.

Kiely, Rory.

Lanigan, Mick.

Leonard, Ann.

Lydon, Don.

McGowan, Patrick.

Mooney, Paschal.

Moylan, Pat.

O'Donovan, Denis.

Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

Ormonde, Ann.

Quill, Máirín.

Walsh, Jim.

Níl

[195]Burke, Paddy.

Caffrey, Ernie.

Coghlan, Paul.

Connor, John.

Coogan, Fintan.

Cosgrave, Liam T.

Costello, Joe.

Cregan, Denis (Dino).

Doyle, Avril.

[196]Doyle, Joe.

Gallagher, Pat.

Hayes, Tom.

Henry, Mary.

Manning, Maurice.

Norris, David.

O'Meara, Kathleen.

Ross, Shane.

Ryan, Brendan.

Ryan, Seán.

Tellers: Tá, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Keogh; Níl, Senators Cregan and Coghlan.

Question declared carried.