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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 25 Mar 1969

Vol. 239 No. 6

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take business in the following order: Nos. 2, 17, 18, 19 and 20 and in No. 20, Votes 48, 12, 16 and 47. There will be no Private Members' time today.

Can the Taoiseach indicate when the Budget will be introduced?

No, I cannot.

(Cavan): Is the Taoiseach going to introduce a Budget at all?

What is the hurry? It is not normally introduced at this time of the year.

Has the Taoiseach made any decision yet about the holding of the General Election? Has he decided on the date?

Perhaps I have and if I have I would not say it here.

(Cavan): Could the Taoiseach say on what date the Budget was introduced last year?

Which Budget?

(Cavan): The first one.

I said that normally it is not introduced as early as this.

Before we pass from the Order of Business, I feel it is my duty as a Member of the House to report to you, a Cheann Comhairle, an incident which happened last Thursday evening on the Adjournment Debate when the Minister for Local Government used abusive remarks, and for his vile conduct towards Deputy L'Estrange and other Fine Gael Deputies between the Chamber and the Ministers' corridor. He threatened to assault Deputy L'Estrange and invited all Members of the Fine Gael Party to indulge in fisticuffs. I think you should know this, Sir.

He took on the whole lot of you.

There is another ring for that. I know that he is quite capable of forming rings but——

I have already had a letter from Deputy Harte on this matter and I indicated to the Deputy that he may have the question raised at a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges if he so wishes.

That will suit me.

He must have a "go" here also.

On a point of order, the Government is the Government of the country and we have been always jealous in this House that the authority of the Government as the lawful executive should not extend to the premises of Leinster House in ordinary matters where you, as Ceann Comhairle are regarded as the ultimate authority for all that transpires on these premises. In those circumstances, if a Member of the House passes through a stormy period on the premises and the matter is brought to your attention is it not expedient, if you are satisfied that the circumstances reported to you are of sufficient gravity, that you would take upon yourself the obligation of bringing the matter to the attention of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges for such inquiry as you deem expedient for the purpose of asserting that what transpires in Leinster House is under your jurisdiction no matter whose conduct is called in question?

May I say something now to put this thing in its perspective? There is a procedure in this House whereby Deputies may raise, on the Adjournment, questions of urgent public importance or questions which have been asked at the normal Question Time, with the answers to which they have been dissatisfied. It is usual on the Adjournment, in fact it is according to Standing Orders of the House, that the Deputy who raises the question is permitted 20 minutes in which to speak and the Minister who has to deal with that question is given ten minutes to reply. There has been a series of questions raised on the Adjournment on the Minister for Local Government's administration over a number of weeks and months past and there has been a deliberate attempt to preclude the Minister for Local Government from using his ten minutes in which to reply adequately. It was in circumstances like that, when the Minister for Local Government foresaw those interruptions during the course of his ten minutes' reply last week, that he refused to continue with his reply because he knew he would not be given the opportunity to do so. It is no harm to put that in its perspective.

On a point of order, that, of course, is a reflection on the Chair, that the Chair is unable to keep order, which is entirely untrue. Whether that is so or not, may I make this submission to you? When on a previous occasion a Fianna Fáil Minister assaulted a Member of this House in the passage below the stairs the then Ceann Comhairle took cognisance of the fact and himself dealt with it. I suggest it is your duty on this occasion to carry out the functions of your office in the same way and to see who is responsible for what.

In reply to Deputy Dillon, who raised the point of order, the Chair would like to point out that even if I find there has been a prima facie breach of privilege the best I can do is to allow a motion putting the matter to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The Chair has no way of dealing with this instantly. It has to go to the Committee for consideration.

On the matter of precedents, it is my recollection that on one occasion, perhaps not exactly similar to this, where there was disorder created in the House in the presence of the Chair, the Chair brought the matter to the notice of the then Government for action.

I would like to point out to Deputy O'Higgins that on this occasion I had adjourned the Dáil——

I want to pursue my original point of order. I do not want to argue with the Taoiseach about what happened in the House. That was a matter for the Chair who was present.

I have no knowledge of what happened in the House.

Neither have I about what transpired. What I am concerned with is what it is alleged took place in this House, which is under your jurisdiction, a Cheann Comhairle——

On the premises.

In the building.

——Leinster House is Leinster House and those premises are under the jurisdiction of the Ceann Comhairle. It is alleged that not only was bad language used but that there was physical violence. I remember in stormy days in the past difficult situations of that kind arising. What I am concerned with is vindicating the position of the Ceann Comhairle and to declare the unanimous support of the House for the Ceann Comhairle in maintaining some standards of parliamentary decorum in our own Parliament. All I am suggesting is that if the Ceann Comhairle is himself satisfied that prima facie evidence of gross disorder within his jurisdiction in Leinster House has been brought to his attention the initiative should be taken by the Ceann Comhairle to take such steps as he thinks fitting, including convening the Committee of Procedure and Privileges and saying: “This complaint has been made to me and I think it requires examination by this Committee.” All I am concerned about is to vindicate the dignity of the person and the authority of the Ceann Comhairle in Leinster House which I do not think anyone should flout, whether he be a Minister, a Deputy or an officer.

May I inquire if notice was given to you or to the Minister concerned that those allegations would be made today?

No notice has been given to the Chair that those matters would be raised today.


The Chair was notified by letter.

Those allegations are being made here in the absence of the Minister and are being put on the record of the House as though they are facts. They are really allegations.

This is not the first occasion the Minister has deserted the House. He threatened to do so before.

This matter should be brought to the Committee of Procedure and Privileges instead of being brought in here in the absence of the Minister.

Deputy Harte in his letter to me made no reference to raising such a matter at today's Dáil meeting.

We have had allegations made here.

I hope you are embarrassed by it.

We are not in the least embarrassed.

It would take a lot to embarrass you.

It is the only way this conduct will not be repeated. The Minister for Local Government has deliberately flouted this House on many occasions.

There was nothing said about the organised effort by Deputy L'Estrange and members of the Fine Gael Party preventing the Minister from making his reply.

On a point of order. I do not wish to delay the proceedings of the House but I wish to put on the record of the House that those are not allegations, that they are facts into which I would ask you to inquire, when senior officers of this House were present and witnessed them.

This is grossly out of order.

The Chair would like to point out that if the Chair is satisfied that a prima facie breach of privilege has taken place I will allow a motion to be moved and the matter will be considered by the Committee for Procedure and Privileges as has been done all down the years.