Seanad Éireann - Volume 154 - 01 April, 1998

An Bille um an Ochtú Leasú Déag ar an mBunreacht, 1998: An Coiste agus na Céimeanna a Bheidh Fágtha. - Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1998: Committee and Remaining Stages.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: As the substance of the debate on the Bill will relate to the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment contained in the Schedule to the Bill and since it would be appropriate to have that Schedule decided upon before deciding on section 1 of the Bill which actually provides for its insertion into the Constitution, I am suggesting that the House postpones consideration of sections 1 and 2 of the Bill until after the Schedule shall have been agreed. This is a procedure which has been [1400] adopted on Committee Stage in the Seanad in the case of previous Bills to amend the Constitution and which, I suggest, would lend itself to a more logically ordered debate. I would, therefore, ask the Leader of the House to move, in accordance with Standing Order No. 89, that consideration of sections 1 and 2 of the Bill be postponed until the Schedule shall have been disposed of.

Mr. Lydon: I move: “That, in accordance with Standing Order 89, the consideration of sections 1 and 2 of the Bill be postponed until the Schedule shall have been disposed of.”.

Question put and agreed to.

Aontaíodh leis an Sceideal.

Schedule agreed to.

ALT 1.

SECTION 1.

Tairgeadh an cheist: “Go bhfanfaidh alt 1 mar chuid den Bhille.”

Question proposed; “That section 1 stand part of the Bill”.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: This is a proposal fundamentally to amend Article 29 of the Constitution. The Minister, in his response to Second Stage, reiterated what the Minister for Foreign Affairs had said earlier about neutrality.

However, there is a fundamental flaw in what the Minister said on this issue. In my view the proposed amendment will, for the first time, place in the Constitution our position of neutrality. The Minister has said it will not have this effect but, in my view, it will. I believe that to give a constitutional basis to Ireland's neutrality will be a retrograde step. I am concerned that a body of opinion holds that the Amsterdam Treaty threatens our neutrality and will lead to Ireland becoming part of a European military alliance. The contrary is the case. As a result of this constitutional amendment our neutrality will be formally framed in the Constitution and cannot be changed unless an intergovernmental conference is held on the issue, the Council of Ministers unanimously agrees to the change and a referendum is held here. It is dangerous for the Government to articulate the view that the proposed amendment will not alter Ireland's position of neutrality.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: We are debating section 1. Your comments would have been more appropriate to the Schedule which we have already agreed.

[1401] Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: That is a matter of interpretation. I think you could give me the benefit of the doubt.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I have given you that so far.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: The Minister, in his response, referred to conflict management and post-conflict rehabilitation. The terminology is convoluted. Why do we not have the honesty to talk about war and peace. We should speak in simple terms so that people know what we are talking about.

Mr. Mooney: Think of all the people who would lose their jobs if we did that.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: The more convoluted our language the more difficult it is to understand. We are not in the business of confusing people.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Have you a question for the Minister, Senator?

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: We should speak clearly about war, peace, peacekeeping and peace enforcement. The more simple the language the more likely people are to know for what they are voting. If we are to communicate our message before 22 May it is important that we use straightforward language rather than the jargon of high diplomacy, which is meant only for the select few. I hope the officials will further dilute and simplify the detail surrounding this issue. It is fundamental that the Government should ensure that the question of neutrality is clearly presented to the people. In my view, the Minister seems to take a different position on this matter.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Dr. Moffatt): I am glad the Senator expressed a personal view. Hers is not the view held by——

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: To which of my views is the Minister of State referring?

Dr. Moffatt: I was referring to her view on neutrality.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: It is also my party's view.

Dr. Moffatt: The Senator reiterated that it is a personal view, it is not my view or that of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The general opinion is that acceptance of the Treaty will not affect our neutrality.

The Senator referred to a term used in my reply to Second Stage, with which she had some difficulty. The precise wording I used was “post-conflict rehabilitation”.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: That is the phrase to which I referred.

[1402] Dr. Moffatt: The Senator knows all about rehabilitation. The term “post-conflict rehabilitation” has been part of the vocabulary of the UN for a long period.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: It is not part of the vocabulary of the normal Irish voter.

Dr. Moffatt: The term “rehabilitation” means just that, regardless of who uses it.

Mr. Mooney: The term describes what is happening to the Clare hurling team at present.

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.

Question put and agreed to.

Alt 2 aontaithe.

Section 2 agreed to.

Aontaíodh leis an Teideal.

Title agreed to.

Tuairiscíodh an Bille gan leasuithe, chun an bhreithiú deiridh a dhéanamh air agus ritheadh é.

Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.