Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Policies Relating to Women.


asked the Taoiseach if he will establish a special committee within his Department, headed by Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Minister of State at his Department, to identify and progress specific areas affecting women as we prepare for 1992; and if he will arrange for this committee to report to Dáil Éireann every six months.

Fully adequate arrangements exist for co-ordinating all aspects of our policy towards the European Community, including issues relating to 1992. The Taoiseach, therefore, sees no reason to establish a separate committee of the kind described by the Deputy.

Once again I find myself hearing an answer from a Minister of State when the Taoiseach is in the House and not answering questions put to him. Across Europe, unemployment is higher among women than any other group, women's pay is still less than 70 per cent of men's pay, women are virtually excluded from all decision making roles in the wider areas in EC politics, trade unionism and professions, and women are grossly under-represented in the whole new area of new technology and employment. These are just some areas. In view of the fact that all these problems face women as we approach 1992 and what we might call an economic lift up for Europe, is there not a need for a special committee to look into the very special needs of this large group of the European population?

The Deputy will be aware of the importance the Government attach to the social dimension of the single market within which the very special position of women, as of others, is directly addressed. A great deal of co-operation has taken place and much work has been done with regard to legislation concerning health and safety at work with particular reference to women. The Social Affairs Ministers in Council have already progressed quite a substantial amount of work in this whole area. I do not think it would be beneficial in any way to depart from the situation we have now where we have two Government committees dealing with 1992 and EC affairs. Were we to depart in one area it would be necessary to set up several committees in other areas.

I must take it then that neither the Minister of State nor the Taoiseach has raised the matter of the special position of women as a disadvantaged group with the Council of Ministers in the context of 1992 or had a discussion with Commissioner Papandreou on this matter. Am I also to take it, therefore, that the opportunity of the Irish Presidency next year will not be used to give an impetus to the work for women as we approach 1992?

The Deputy can be assured that the Irish Presidency in the first half of 1990 will be a successful Presidency. The Government and Ministers in the various councils will make every effort to advance not only the position of women but many other matters which will have priority during our six-month Presidency. I would remind the Deputy that she has a separate question, Question No. 85 to the Minister for Labour, which deals in some degree with some of the issues raised now.

I am sure the Deputy must be slightly aware of the irony of her position in raising the issue of the exclusion of women from important areas while at the same time objecting to my entrusting the answer to this very important question to a very able woman Minister.

I was asking the Taoiseach, not anybody else — the person in charge. The Taoiseach should not pass the buck.

If I entrust a Minister with an important issue, that is passing the buck.