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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 14 Nov 1972

Vol. 263 No. 8

Personal Explanation by Parliamentary Secretary.

Arising from a query in the Dáil on Thursday last as to the date of the most recent sitting of the All-Party Committee on Dáil Procedure, Deputy Cluskey was correct as to the length of time since the last meeting, I was in error on this point. I was also in error in informing the Taoiseach just before he replied to one of Deputy Cluskey's queries on the same point. For the information of the House, the committee will sit on Thursday, 23rd November, to consider the chairman's draft report.

A Cheann Comhairle——

We cannot have any discussion on this personal explanation.

On a point of order, I accept the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation and I thank him for it but, in view of the fact that the Taoiseach also misinformed the House as to the last meeting, and, in view of the fact that this whole matter is much more basic than the question as to when a committee of this House last sat, and that it is basic to the whole idea and concept of Parliamentary democracy——

There can be no discussion on this.

—— surely we could expect an apology from the Taoiseach.

No. I have just pointed out, Sir, that it was as a result of my wrong prompting that the Taoiseach gave a wrong reply to Deputy Cluskey's query so, in the last analysis, the blame rests entirely with me.

One could readily accept that the Taoiseach did not know the answer at the time and he could well have informed the House that he was not aware and would communicate later with the House but the Taoiseach, standing in this House and telling lies to save himself from a temporary political embarrassment, is not acceptable.

The Deputy may not use the expression that a Member of this House is telling lies.

It is on the record of this House.

The Deputy has said that the Taoiseach was telling lies and the Deputy cannot be allowed to get away with this disorderly remark. He must withdraw his remark that a Member of the House told lies.

The only reason we got this explanation today is that we knew when this committee last sat. We know there are evasions.

The Deputy will withdraw the remark that a Member of this House told lies.

In order to save themselves temporary political embarrassment they are quite capable of telling lies, and they have done so repeatedly, and the only advantage we have in this place is that we can prove they are telling lies.

Will the Deputy close his mouth for a moment? The Deputy has used a disorderly expression and the Chair is asking him to withdraw that expression.

My dear Sir, I said they told lies and it is a matter of fact that they did. The least the country could expect is that, after the Taoiseach issued a false statement, he should have the courtesy and the manhood to come in here and apologise and not send in his poor unfortunate Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Andrews.

I resent very strongly the reaction of Deputy Cluskey to my apology. Deputy Cluskey wants the Taoiseach and I to crawl across the floor of the House.

I accept the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation and I am sorry that he should be placed in this position by the Taoiseach.

This was brought about by my wrongly prompting the Taoiseach and I am amazed at Deputy Cluskey.

I am amazed at the Taoiseach not having the guts to come in here and apologise to the Irish people.

Deputy Cluskey will withdraw his remark that a Member of the House told lies.

It is an established fact that this happened. You, Sir, were in the Chair.

If the Deputy refuses to withdraw his remark, I will have to ask him to leave the House.

The information was on the records of the meeting and, if the Taoiseach did not know, then he should have said so. That was all he had to do, but he chose this time, as he has chosen many times in the past, to give wrong information; we could not nail him before but we can nail him now.

Does the Deputy withdraw his remark that the Taoiseach told lies?

I am concerned——

I am concerned with the remark made by Deputy Cluskey. Is the Deputy withdrawing his remark?

I am concerned about democracy and, if there is one thing that will undermine democracy, it is that sort of behaviour on the part of a government.

If the Deputy does not withdraw his remark, I will have the Deputy named.

How can I possibly withdraw?

The remark was disorderly.

The point is that this information was given to the House on evidence that was not correct. This is the problem.

That is not a matter for the Chair. The Chair is concerned only with order and Deputy Cluskey was disorderly in the remark he made.

What was done was done in order to save the Government and the Taoiseach a temporary political embarrassment.

That is not true at all.

Deputy Cluskey may not use the expression that a Member of the House is telling lies. No Deputy may. I will now ask Deputy Cluskey to withdraw his remark.

It has been made absolutely clear that the Parliamentary Secretary prompted the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach gave the wrong information.

Surely, if the Taoiseach misled the House, he should come in and apologise. Why put his Parliamentary Secretary into the firing line?

Because I was responsible.

We accept the Parliamentary Secretary's share of the blame and I have accepted his explanation. There is only one captain on a ship.

The entire responsibility in relation to the misinformation was mine and I accept that. If the Deputy wants any further explanation, it will be morally unfair and not very magnanimous on his part, with great respect.

This has happened too many times in the House. We can prove it this time but, if we could not prove it, there would not be a word about it. Sir, in order not to delay the House further I will substitute "deliberately misled".

That is not sufficient and the Deputy cannot get around it in that way. The Deputy has been long enough in the House to know that he is being disorderly and must withdraw the remark.

I suggest, Sir, that you withdraw the remark where you asked him to shut his mouth. It is a quid pro quo.

It is advice that could be given to the Deputy on many occasions.

It is only a matter of procedure and, because of the standing of Deputy Cluskey, I would appeal to Deputy Cluskey to withdraw his remark.

I withdraw the word "lie."