Seanad Éireann - Volume 157 - 17 December, 1998

Order of Business.

Mr. Cassidy: The Order of Business for today is items 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. All Stages of item 1 will be taken today with the contributions of spokespersons on Second Stage not to exceed 20 minutes and those of other Senators not to exceed 15 minutes. Item 2 will be taken from 12.30 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. and contributions of Senators are not to exceed seven minutes. Item 3 will be taken at 2.30 p.m. and contributions are not to exceed seven minutes. Item 4, Report and Final Stages of the National Disability Authority Bill, 1998, will be taken at the conclusion of item 3 but not later than 3.30 p.m. Item 5 will be taken at the conclusion of item 4 with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes.

[1230] Mr. Manning: I submitted a motion this morning calling on the Taoiseach to come to the Seanad to explain the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the appeals commissioner, Mr. Kelly, but the Cathaoirleach disallowed it. I understand the reason for his decision.

An Cathaoirleach: I regret I could not accept the motion at such short notice.

Mr. Manning: However, I propose an amendment to the Order of Business — that statements be taken at 12 noon for one hour on the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the appeals commissioner and the consequences of his judgment. People's confidence in the fairness of our tax system has been undermined. Unless there are answers to a range of questions, that erosion of public confidence will continue. I am sure our colleagues in the Progressive Democrats Party and all other parties would like to have these questions answered. For that reason I propose that the Order of Business be amended to allow for statements at 12 o'clock on this matter.

I also ask that time be made available for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to come into the House to report on the Irish attitude to the bombing of Iraq, to give us an update on the situation and allow Members to make known their views.

I mentioned yesterday my concern about item 8 on the Order Paper for today — the taking of a range of regulations without debate. Since then I have been briefed by the civil servants and was informed that Members of the Lower House were given adequate prior information and briefing on these regulations. This was not done for the Upper House. For some reason they did not think it necessary to appraise us, which surprises me since the longest debate on the Freedom of Information Act took place in this House. They have now, however, briefed all parties and I will have no difficulty in taking that without debate. I ask the Leader to put on the agenda of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges examination of the manner in which we deal with statutory instruments.

Mr. O'Toole: On a technical point, the Leader has suggested 20 and 15 minutes per speaker on the first Bill. It may not be possible to grant that amount of time and move on to the next business at 12 o'clock. That is too long for a short Bill which was discussed in detail earlier this year. Periods of 15 and ten minutes would be quite adequate.

Leaving party political considerations out of it, there is a widespread lack of trust in regard to the appointment of the appeals commissioner. It may well be that there is a simple explanation. People's confidentiality must be respected in matters of taxation and finance. On the other hand, many questions are being asked.

[1231] An Cathaoirleach: Senator Manning has sought a debate on this matter by way of statements and an amendment to the Order of Business. I would prefer if that debate were not pre-empted.

Mr. O'Toole: I support that call for a debate. People need explanations. It is better to have matters dealt with openly than have them talked about in corners.

As regards the Freedom of Information Act, we have not had time to assimilate what the regulations might be. Before giving any undertaking to agree to those without debate we need time to look at them.

Mr. Costello: My colleague, Senator Gallagher, raised the matter of item 8 yesterday. We are thankful that the officials of the Department of Finance undertook a briefing on it for all the parties yesterday evening. It should not have to come to that. The matter should have been clarified in advance so that there would have been an opportunity to make statements if necessary.

I second Senator Manning's call for an amendment to the Order of Business. We need the Taoiseach to come before the House. It is not necessary, however, for the Minister for Finance to come in. His attitude in his contribution yesterday seemed to condone tax avoidance and tax evasion.

Mr. Finneran: He did no such thing.

An Cathaoirleach: A debate has been sought by way of statements and we cannot pre-empt that debate.

Mr. Dardis: Tax avoidance is legal, tax evasion is illegal.

Mr. Costello: We would like a debate in this House with the Taoiseach present. The matter is being debated fully in the other House today.

I want to raise the issue of the attacks on Iraq. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will want to express the view of this State, which has already been expressed by Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, that this was an unprovoked attack. No report was made by the mission in Iraq monitoring weapons to the United Nations Security Council, and it knew nothing about the attack. It was a unilateral action by Britain and the United States. There is a rule of international law which must be abided by. The Minister for Foreign Affairs should state that loud and clear. He should come into the House to hear our views. This is a declaration of war against a country and its people, which is a very serious matter.

Mr. Norris: I support the calls for a debate on Iraq. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business — that we debate this matter this morning. The raids started last night and it is likely that they will continue this evening. I feel fully justified in having boycotted Mr. Blair's visit to [1232] the House. This proved what is going on. I saw him on television last night and he was literally Mr. Clinton's spitting image, parroting the script dictated by Washington.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Manning has sought a debate on that matter for tomorrow and I do not wish that debate to be pre-empted on today's Order of Business.

Mr. Norris: I understand that but I would like to formally propose an alteration to the Order of Business. In my opinion it is much more urgent than the question of a former Taoiseach's tax affairs. If that debate does take place, I hope it will be clean and impartial. This business of dragging in-laws in is utterly wrong. It is misleading and stirs up the public's apprehension in an unjustifiable manner.

When civilians in places such as Basra and Baghdad are likely to be killed this evening by those who installed, armed and encouraged Saddam Hussein, that is what we should be discussing, not tax affairs.

Mr. Finneran: I welcome the call for statements on the situation in Iraq. I agree with Senator Norris. If we have a debate on the present controversy over the payment of tax, it should be conducted properly and the muck spreading which we saw yesterday should not be continued today.

An Cathaoirleach: That is not relevant.

Mr. Finneran: As regards the call for a debate on the united approach of Britain and the US in attacking Iraq, I remind the House that if it was not for the intervention of the US in Europe 50 years ago, we might not be in a free, democratic and affluent Europe today. The US forces paid a high price for that freedom. Chemical and biological weapons should not be tolerated.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is out of order.

Mr. Norris: Was it a war? I thought it was an emergency.

Mr. Ross: I second Senator Norris's proposal for a debate on Iraq. Although I am not in accord with the sentiments which he expressed, I agree there is need for a debate on a subject of such urgency and today would be a good day for that debate.

I thank all those Members of the House who sent me a Christmas card, especially those who signed them, a minority at this stage.

Mr. Norris: What about the smoked salmon? Did you not get any more of that?

Mr. Ross: I presume the Leader of the House will not allow statements on the issue raised by Senator Manning. Like Senator Norris, I am opposed to holding a debate in the atmosphere which has been created. I do not want to open a [1233] debate about it but there is a world of difference between what was found by Judge McCracken, the facts, and whether the former Taoiseach has a tax liability. That is the issue. It is utterly wrong for this House to use emotions and pander.

An Cathaoirleach: I have ruled other Senators out of order and I am now ruling Senator Ross out of order.

Mr. Ross: One cannot be prejudiced on this issue without considering the real issue which is whether there is a tax liability. The judgment on the law as it stands seems to——

An Cathaoirleach: We cannot pre-empt any debate which may take place on this matter.

Mr. Coghlan: Does the Leader wish to make a statement on the ongoing and very public differences between the National Treasury Management Agency and the Department of Finance? They are rather unedifying to say the least and they are not in the best interests of the State. There is no doubt that Dr. Somers and the agency——

An Cathaoirleach: Is the Senator seeking a debate on this matter?

Mr. Coghlan: I am. I would like to hear from the Leader. The agency has more than proved itself. The Department of Finance needs to get its act in order. Those who are doing a good job on behalf of the State should be allowed get on with it unhindered.

Mr. Lanigan: I support the call for an urgent debate on Iraq. Last night a disaster took place for the people of Iraq. Mr. Clinton hypocritically stated he is attacking three days before the holy season of Ramadan, in other words, he is saying it is all right to kill people before Ramadan.

An Cathaoirleach: A debate has been sought on this matter and we cannot pre-empt that debate.

Mr. Lanigan: To say he does not want people killed during Ramadan is a nonsense.

Mrs. Jackman: I am concerned about the problems in maternity hospitals and I would like the Leader to ask the Minister for Health and Children to come to the House early in the new year to debate this matter. I refer particularly to Limerick where a mother had to be separated from her new-born twins because the neo-natal service is not sufficient to deal with emergencies. At a time when parents are supposed to bond with their new born babies, this is shocking. We have discussed child abduction. In this instance the Minister needs to review neo-natal services in hospitals in the light of the increased birth rate, particularly in the areas of high fertility and multiple births.

[1234] Mr. Ryan: A Chathaoirligh, I will not risk your wrath by making a long speech but I wish to state that I agree with Senators Norris and Lanigan. I beg the House's indulgence to congratulate Danny McNamee on his release. He spent 11 years in jail and what was noticed most was that horses were killed in the event for which he was charged. There will be a lot more than horses dying in Baghdad tonight and tomorrow and the following night and we will not even see what happens because no one will tell us. As someone said, it is an act of collective punishment beating by two countries which want to prove themselves to be as macho as everybody else. I hope we have a debate.

An Cathaoirleach: We cannot pre-empt the debate.

Mr. Ryan: It is far more important than even a former Taoiseach's tax affairs.

Mr. Cassidy: Senators Manning, O'Toole and Ross called for an amendment to the Order of Business The Order of Business today is long and lengthy — hopefully we will finish by 9 or 10 p.m. — so there can be no change to the Order of Business. I can consider it for tomorrow but certainly not for today.

Senators Norris, Finneran, Ross, Lanigan, Ryan and Costello called for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to come to the House for a debate. I will endeavour to have time left aside for this tomorrow. I will contact the Minister's office after the Order of Business.

In reply to Senator O'Toole, I can change the time per speaker on item 1 to 15 and ten minutes as he suggested. In reply to Senators Manning, O'Toole and Costello on item 8, I will put this on the agenda for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges meeting as requested. Senator Coghlan raised the matter of the National Treasury Management Agency. I will pass on his views to the Minister for Finance. Senator Jackman called for the Minister for Health and Children to come to the House early in the next session for a debate on maternity hospitals; I will leave time aside for this. Senator Ryan welcomed Danny McNamee's release.

An Cathaoirleach: There are two amendments to the Order of Business and I will take them in the sequence in which they were proposed. Senator Manning moved amendment No. 1 to the Order of Business: “That statements on the circumstances in which Mr. Ronan Kelly was appointed Revenue Appeals Commissioner in 1992 be taken at 12 noon.” Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Manning: Yes.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 29.

[1235]Burke, Paddy.

Caffrey, Ernie.

Coghlan, Paul.

Coogan, Fintan.

Costello, Joe.

Cregan, Denis (Dino).

Doyle, Avril.

Gallagher, Pat.

[1236]Hayes, Tom.

Henry, Mary.

Jackman, Mary.

Manning, Maurice.

O'Meara, Kathleen.

O'Toole, Joe.

Ryan, Brendan.

Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.

Níl

Bohan, Eddie.

Callanan, Peter.

Cassidy, Donie.

Cox, Margaret.

Cregan, John

Dardis, John

Farrell, Willie.

Finneran, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Tom.

Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

Gibbons, Jim.

Glynn, Camillus.

Keogh, Helen.

Kett, Tony.

Kiely, Daniel.

Kiely, Rory.

Lanigan, Mick.

Leonard, Ann.

Lydon, Don.

Mooney, Paschal.

Moylan, Pat.

Norris, David.

O'Brien, Francis.

O'Donovan, Denis.

Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

Ormonde, Ann.

Quill, Máirín.

Ross, Shane.

Walsh, Jim.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Burke and Coogan; Níl, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Keogh.

Amendment declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Norris moved amendment No. 2 to the Order of Business: “That statements on the bombing of Iraq be taken today”. Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Norris: Yes.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 27.

Burke, Paddy.

Caffrey, Ernie.

Coghlan, Paul.

Coogan, Fintan.

Costello, Joe.

Cregan, Denis (Dino).

Doyle, Avril.

Hayes, Tom.

Gallagher, Pat.

Henry, Mary.

Jackman, Mary.

Manning, Maurice.

Norris, David.

O'Meara, Kathleen.

O'Toole, Joe.

Ross, Shane.

Ryan, Brendan.

Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.

Níl

Bohan, Eddie.

Callanan, Peter.

Cassidy, Donie.

Cox, Margaret.

Cregan, John.

Dardis, John.

Farrell, Willie.

Finneran, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Tom.

Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

Gibbons, Jim.

Glynn, Camillus.

Keogh, Helen.

Kett, Tony.

Kiely, Daniel.

Kiely, Rory.

Lanigan, Mick.

Leonard, Ann.

Lydon, Don.

Mooney, Paschal.

Moylan, Pat.

O'Brien, Francis.

O'Donovan, Denis.

Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

Ormonde, Ann.

Quill, Máirín.

Walsh, Jim.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Norris and Ross; Níl, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Keogh.

Amendment declared lost.

Order of Business agreed to. [1237]