Statement by Taoiseach.

The situation which now obtains, where the Dáil has failed to agree on the nomination of a Taoiseach is unprecedented in our history.

My colleagues and I in Government have obtained the advice of the Attorney General and considered what we should do in this very difficult situation. It would not be in the best interests of the country to precipitate another general election, if this can be avoided. What the country needs at this critical juncture in our economic development and as we face into Ireland's Presidency of the European Community and the challenges of the Single European Market is a period of continuing stability. For that a stable Government, with the right policies, is essential.

I am not, therefore, at this early stage deciding whether I should advise the President to dissolve the Dáil. Our paramount task now is to provide a government who can meet the challenges and problems facing the country. I propose, therefore, that, for the present at any rate, we in the Dáil should continue our efforts to reach a decision, with any adjournments, as required, for consultations. Under Article 28.11.2º of the Constitution, I and my Cabinet colleagues continue to hold office and the day to day business of Government will be carried on uninterrupted.

I propose therefore, and notwithstanding anything to the contrary in Standing Orders, that the Dáil should now adjourn and meet again at 3 p.m. on Monday, 3 July to resume condideration of this matter. This will be a special sitting which will not deal with any items of business other than the nomination of Taoiseach, and, if appropriate, approval of the members of the new Government.

In the interim, I propose to hold further consultations with the parties in the House. I am confident that, with a full appreciation of the political realities and mindful of the best interests of the country, our efforts will meet with success.

In the circumstances of today I will say nothing more than that I agree with the proposal just now made by Deputy Haughey that we should adjourn the House until Monday afternoon.

Let me seek some clarification from the Taoiseach. I would like clarification under Article 28.10 of the Constitution and I would be very grateful if the Taoiseach would outline to the House the legal advice he has received in relation to that article. As I see it, the Taoiseach has failed to retain the support of the majority of this House and the article is quite specific that:

The Taoiseach shall resign from office upon his ceasing to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann unless on his advice the President dissolves Dáil Éireann and on the reassembly of Dáil Éireann after the dissolution the Taoiseach secures the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann.

I think it would be in the interests of the Constitution and of the proceedings in this House if the Taoiseach were to read to us the advice he has received from his Attorney General. I do not claim to have the same legal experience as the Attorney General, but I would question the interpretation on this occasion of Article 28.10 of our Constitution. I also think, given the unprecedented situation we now find ourselves in, that we are entitled to an explanation and some direction on this.

I support the motion for an adjournment to Monday at 3 p.m. There was a suggestion that it might be earlier, that it might be Saturday, which proposal I would have opposed because we believe the parties we have referred to, the Fianna Fáil party, Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats, need a few days to settle down and recognise the reality in which they find themselves. For that reason we support the adjournment to 3 p.m. on Monday.

My advice in regard to the article in question is that it is a specific mandatory direction in the Constitution, but I am also advised that it is perfectly in order for me to take a reasonable amount of time to reflect, consider and, if necessary, consult. That is what I propose to do.

Deputy Haughey suggests to us what he regards as a reasonable amount of time. It seems, interpreting the Constitution, that on losing the confidence of the majority of the House the Taoiseach must resign. The remaining provisions are perfectly adequate to allow consultations to be carried out, with the outgoing Taoiseach and members of the Government continuing to carry out the duties of Government after their resignation.

I am advised that time is not of the essence and that it is open to me to take a reasonable amount of time to reflect and consider. That I intend to do. As some Deputies know, I had proposed that we meet tomorrow or on Saturday but I am assured that in this context anything up to a week would be valid in regard to reflecting upon and considering the situation. The only alternative is for me to go to the president and seek a dissolution of the Dáil. That is not in the best interests.

The alternative is to resign.

There is nothing to be lost and I think the general public would expect us to take a day or two, a very limited and short period, to see if the Dáil can resolve this matter.

It is very important that we address the question of respect for the Constitution. There is an onus on the Taoiseach who has failed to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Éireann to clarify the situation. Since the election this situation has seemed inevitable, despite some discussions which took place. It would be normal in such a situation that the Taoiseach and the Government would have clear, written advice from the Attorney General. The situation warrants that that advice be made known to the Members of the House. As of now we are equal Members. The Taoiseach has a responsibility to inform us clearly and concisely. I do not accept his last remark that he has no option other than to stay on as Taoiseach or go to the President seeking dissolution. That is not the position under our Constitution.

The Constitution is quite clear. Article 28.10 states that the Taoiseach shall resign from office upon his ceasing to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann. There is no question of time involved. The remainder of that article provides the means by which the consultations he is proposing can be carried out, Article 28.11 provides that in the event of the Taoiseach having resigned, the Taoiseach and the other members of the Government shall continue to carry on their duties until their successors shall have been appointed. The situation is perfectly clear. The Taoiseach should now resign and state quite clearly that he is resigning and rely on the following provisions of Article 28 of the Constitution to carry out the rest of the consultations which he proposes.


My recollection of the advice I was given is that I had to resign as Taoiseach in this House unless I moved to dissolve the Dáil at once and that my duty under the Constitution was so to act. I would also point out that the Taoiseach in his remarks just now referred to Article 28.11.2º of the Constitution and held that up as justification for continuing to hold office. That article only comes into effect after his resignation which was implied in his speech and which he is now saying he will not offer despite the provisions of the Constitution. The situation which has now arisen is a very serious one indeed and is to the effect as to how we deal with somebody who is not prepared to abide by the Constitution.

My advice is very clear and my information is——

I am sorry, Taoiseach. I have allowed this debate to go on by way of question and answer. This is not the usual procedure.

A Deputy

It is a serious matter. This is not a usual situation.

We must have some finality in the matter.

It is a very unusual situation, as I said in my opening remarks. I am advised that the course that I propose is totally in accordance with the Constitution. Time is not of the essence. It is my view that the best course to pursue is for this short adjournment to take place so we can see whether we can resolve the matter by Monday. If not, we can then decide what course of action to pursue.

May I ask if the motion for the adjournment is agreed?

The Taoiseach is relying on advice which is not available to the rest of the House and which seems to me to depart very far from from the provisions of Article 28 of the Constitution. As I have said, Article 28 is very clear. Article 28.11. which the Taoiseach himself invoked, as Deputy FitzGerald said, applies only if a resignation has taken place under Article 28.10. The course of action which the Taoiseach should now take is to state clearly that he is now resigning, that the members of his Cabinet are resigning also and that under the provisions of Article 28.11, they will continue to carry on their duties until their successors have been appointed. That is perfectly clear from the Constitution, perfectly met and, as I have said, it creates no difficulty, no obstacle whatsoever to the kind of consultations which the Taoiseach is proposing.

In an effort to be helpful, I believe that if the House were to adjourn now in these circumstances, a cloud would certainly have been thrown over our proceedings. With that in view, I suggest to the Taoiseach and to the other leaders in this House that the House should adjourn for a short period this evening and that the advice that is available to the Taoiseach should be made available to the leaders of the other parties in this House and we can then come back and consider the question.


Hear, hear.

The advice available to me is quite clear. It is that time is not of the essence, that it is perfectly within my constitutional rights to seek this short adjournment to see if the matter can be resolved. It is a decision for me to satisfy myself that I am acting constitutionally. I am so satisfied and I am suggesting to the House that the sensible, practical procedure is to adjourn until Monday, as suggested, to see if the matter can then be resolved. If not, then events will take their course.

Is it agreed that the House adjourn until Monday next at 3 p.m.?


It is not agreed.

Question put: "That the House be adjourned until 3 p.m. on Monday next".

In relation to that question, I propose a direct amendment, "That the House adjourn for two hours to consider this question".

Can I have agreement that the House adjourn for two hours until, say 8 o'clock? Agreed.

Sitting suspended at 5.45 p.m. and resumed at 8 p.m.

After today's votes there are two courses of action which I must decide between. I could go to the President and ask him to dissolve the Dáil. I have already explained that I did not regard that as desirable at this stage.

Alternatively, I could seek an adjournment of the Dáil to see if the matter can be resolved without a dissolution. This seemed to me to be the right course and I understand it was widely accepted as the better way to proceed.

As I have told the Dáil, I was advised, and I still am advised, that it would be quite proper for me to take a reasonable amount of time to consider these alternatives. My original proposal was to adjourn the Dáil until tomorrow, Friday, to keep the time to a minimum. However, in deference to the other party leaders I suggested firstly that we adjourn to Saturday and finally, with general agreement, to Monday next. That I am advised is still a reasonable time — in fact I have been advised that up to a week would be reasonable.

This is an unprecedented situation but we must all accept that with our electoral system it may occur again. It is necessary, therefore, for me to consider the matter from the point of creating a precedent.

It is of critical importance that we not just legally uphold the Constitution, but be seen to do so. Our people hold their Constitution to be sacrosanct. I would never wish even to appear to do otherwise than adhere strictly to the precepts of the Constitution. Accordingly, even though I have the right to take a reasonable amount of time to consider which of the alternative courses of action is best, I now propose to go to the President and to convey my resignation as Taoiseach to him. I shall not, however, ask him to dissolve the Dáil at this stage.

Under Article 28.11, the Government and I will still continue to carry on all duties of Taoiseach and Government until a Taoiseach has been appointed.

I wish to repeat and to emphasise that I am fully entitled to take until Monday to reach this decision, but lest there be any misunderstanding of my position or lest it be misrepresented in any way, I will, as I have said inform the President of my resignation this evening.

As I proposed this afternoon, the Dáil should now adjourn, by agreement, until 3 p.m. on Monday next for a special sitting at which we will resume our deliberations and most of the general public hope and expect that we will do so successfully.

I was and remain convinced that the Taoiseach was wrong, that Deputy Haughey was wrong, in the view he took earlier this evening on the matter of resignation. I am glad he has now changed his view and taken the course he has outlined to us. I have had legal advice and I want to record for the House that on the basis of that legal advice, just after the suspension of our session earlier this evening, I requested from the Taoiseach, and it was granted, the opportunity to put my legal view and those of my legal advisers to the Attorney General. I intend to keep with the traditions and customs of the House and office in not discussing in the House the views the Attorney General put before me. The views which I put before the Attorney General are very clear, Sir, and I delivered them in the House this afternoon.

As I said, I believe the Taoiseach has taken the correct step in changing his view. It has been represented to me, and I accept it, that the Taoiseach believes there was an arguable case for the view he took. My own conclusion is that the arguments on the side of the case I put earlier this afternoon are convincing. As I said, I believe the step which has been taken is the right one. It should, of course, have been taken earlier.

They say a week is a long time in politics but two hours has certainly proved to be a very long time. I came into the House with the intention of moving an amendment to the Taoiseach's request for an adjournment of the House but obviously in view of the fact that the Taoiseach now concurs with the view I put forward over two hours ago and is going to submit his resignation to the President no amendment is necessary.

Let me say very briefly that I accept the idea that negotiations have to take place. I accept the fundamental requirement that a Government has to be formed. The people spoke when the opportunity arose on 15 June. I accept the need for an adjournment. I felt very strongly that it should be an adjournment of reasonable time so as to allow for serious negotiations to take place because of the impasse which has arisen in our political situation and because there is a very serious responsibility on Deputy Haughey and Deputy Dukes in particular, as leaders of the major parties who concur on economic policy, to facilitate the putting together of a Government.

I also feel very strongly, as I believe all Members of this House do, that there is no need for a general election. The people do not want one and I believe the country cannot afford one. In that respect it is very important that a Government is formed. I am glad at this stage that adherence to the Constitution is being seen to be observed. Perhaps it is just a case of argument but certainly my advice is and my interpretation of Article 28.10 is that it does not provide for any time gap between Deputy Haughey losing the support of the majority of this House and his making contact with the President to inform him of his resignation. I believe it is of vital importance that the people of this country see that after two hours of deliberation the advice has changed and Deputy Haughey is accepting what I consider to be the proper course of action.

What we saw prior to the adjournment and what we are seeing now I suppose indicates very strongly that what we have here is the House of Parliament and not a courthouse. I welcome the decision of the Taoiseach not that I feel strongly one way or the other that his decision earlier was right or wrong but because it defuses a situation where it looked very likely that this House would rush like lemmings over a cliff. The step the Taoiseach has now taken has, I think, defused that situation.

As Deputy Spring has said, the people have already spoken in relation to the strength of the parties they want in this House. They have clearly given a message to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats that they want a Government made up of some combination of those parties and a strong socialist Opposition. It would have been, a grave error for this House to push a situation on the basis of a constitutional wrangle over an interpretation on which effectively the Supreme Court were the only ones who could finally give a judgment and for us to go back to the country on that basis.

I recognise the difficulty and the painful decisions which have to be made by Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil in relation to how they will reach an accommodation. That is why I support an adjournment until Monday rather than Saturday morning. As I said, I think the Taoiseach has made the correct decision. I welcome it and I hope now the three parties concerned will sort out their differences and come back here on Monday with proposals for the formation of a Government. We will promise to provide in so far as we can constructive and consistent opposition.

I would like to welcome the Taoiseach's decision and the fact that he has changed his mind. About an hour and a half ago I put down a motion which was circulated asking him to comply with Article 28 which it seemed to me was mandatory on him and was also immediate in terms of its effect. I am glad he has now taken that step and that what I think would have been a very serious problem has been avoided.

Now that step has been taken, the major problem has not, of course, been removed. That is a difficulty and a challenge for all of us and it is my hope that between now and next Monday afternoon the major question of the formation of a Government can be tackled and solved.

The question is: "That the Dáil do now adjourn until 3 p.m. on Monday next". Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Dáil adjourned at 8.20 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Monday, 3 July 1989.