Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1990: Committee Stage (Resumed).

SECTION 2.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 11:
In page 2, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following subsection:
"(3) An association shall have the right of free access to the media by means of spokespersons nominated by the association.".
—(Deputy Nealon.)

Earlier I was making some brief comments in response to the case made by the Minister and Deputies on the Government side as to why we could not or should not provide for writing into this important enabling legislation a recital of our commitment to the concept of freedom of access to the media. I was borrowing on the experience of recent practice where it would appear there is a lack of clarity and the right is certainly subject to some degree of control. I instanced the case of one member who was subject to discipline on one occasion because he spoke to the media but on the next occasion he could do the same with the benediction of all concerned.

The Minister has said it is a feature of our free society that there should be freedom of access to the media. The society in which we have expected soldiers to live and operate has been anything but free. Their right to speak publicly on matters that would not directly concern order and discipline within the Defence Forces has been severely curtailed, interfered with and set at nought for all practical purposes. Except for recent events, I do not recall a member of the Defence Forces of any rank giving an interview on any matter relating to conditions of work, remuneration or anything else. The spouses association was established to get around the problem since soldiers could not speak on their own behalf.

This is what it is all about.

I know. We have some indication about how new or different it will be. The discussion document referred to curtailing that right of access through GHQ or regional command headquarters. Even though the Minister talks about a new situation, he still talks about this in areas where matters have to be specified. There will have to be specification about what can or cannot be talked about.

The essence of Deputy Nealon's amendment is contained in the words "free access". We must recognise that if we give soldiers the right to organise or associate on issues, there can be no equivocation about their right to talk to the media in respect of those issues. That is the importance of freedom.

I wanted to make those points in response. I am glad the Minister has indicated that the specifying of areas, if ever it is to be done, will be done in consultation and will not be coming by way of diktat from the Department or the officers in command saying, "you cannot speak about this, that or the other."

Finally, it is important to underline the principles of freedom of access to the media. In the commanding officers' document to the Gleeson Commission they put forward the concept that some issues can be talked about through the representative associations while other issues should be reserved to GHQ and to the officer commanding. This is important. All Deputy Nealon is asking for is a declaration, a statement to be encapsulated into this enabling legislation honouring, expressing and supporting the right of freedom of access to the media. That is crucial. We are living in a new era and legislating for an entirely new situation. It is important that we do so in an enlightened fashion reflecting the modern thinking of society. No one in this House should have any reservation or concern about laying down a principle as broad, profound and important as that contained in amendment No. 11 here. I hope it can be accepted.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the fact that one of the two domestic economy colleges in the country, St. Catherine's, Sion Hill, have today been informed that their intake is to be halved even though the review announced by the Minister has neither been completed nor published.

I will communicate with the Deputy.

Considering the number of other amendments we have to discuss in a limited period it is important that we bring this to a conclusion. Putting a few things together in the context of the two amendments and taking on board that the Minister is saying that what we are demanding is already there or will be provided for in regulation, the Opposition, given the situation and the views and attitudes expressed here in the House, want that expression incorporated into the Bill. I see few difficulties with it but if the Minister has certain difficulties with either amendment No. 11 or amendment No. 23, as Deputy Nealon suggested earlier, he could incorporate into the Bill something on the lines expressed in his own document on access to the media. In that case I would be very happy and would be prepared to withdraw my amendment.

I have met the wishes of Deputies in regard to other matters such as the conciliation and arbitration scheme. I was drafting an amendment to that effect during lunch time and it will be incorporated tomorrow on Report Stage.

On this question under discussion I do not see eye to eye with the Deputies. This matter is much more particular, much more capable of inclusion in regulation or regulations. There is a fundamental matter here which we have already referred to in discussing the whole command and discipline area of the Defence Forces. Deputy Bell spoke very well on this aspect this morning and the PDFORRA people, who have talked with Deputies Hillery and Kitt, in their own constitution which they submitted and to which I referred this morning, are very conscious of the importance of the demarcation between on the one hand pay, remuneration, conditions of service and welfare, and on the other hand the whole command and discipline aspect with regard to the Defence Forces. It is very important that that demarcation be written into the regulations, and there will be no difficulty with the representatives of the Defence Forces in that respect. I am absolutely confident that they will have no difficulty in agreeing to regulations in regard to media presentation that will exclude their speaking on matters of command and discipline. There is no question about that. They will sit down around the table and agree upon detail so that they and the representatives of the official side in drawing up the regulations can clearly specify the various areas on which a spokesperson or spokespersons can, following meetings they may hold, talk within the parameters of the mandate which the body will have. That is also flexible within these parameters which I would like to see left to the representatives of the military personnel themselves to draw up in conjunction with the official side. It is a matter that concerns them.

The right is not unlimited by reason of the fact that command and discipline will be excluded. They will be as keen as I am and as everybody else in this House is to ensure that matters of command and discipline are excluded from any aspect of media contact or presentation in which they may wish to engage. Therefore, their media presentation, will be confined to the areas of pay, conditions of service, and welfare, within the parameters of their mandate. If they want to be specific or at large within that mandate it is up to themselves to make their point of view known. They may wish to go into detail in the regulation on such matters as spokesperson, the situation in which they may make their media presentation or the meetings after which they will speak. They may wish to have some meetings as committee meetings, others as "at large" meetings. They may wish for any one of half a dozen methods of presentation and exchange of their views to the media within their parameters. I want to leave that to them. That is their business. It is they who will be operating the representative body, the elected representatives of the members of the forces. They will have the responsibility. It is up to them to decide what they wish to convey to the media in any circumstances or situation and I would go along, within those broad parameters I have mentioned, with any formula or any set of situations or circumstances they may wish to see incorporated in regulation to facilitate them in that respect. That is my guarantee to them. I do not see how it could or should be desirable that the whole area we have just been talking about be incorporated in the legislation. It is a flexible matter within certain parameters and it is up to the men themselves to decide. Having incorporated it in a regulation, if it does not work and they feel they are not getting the right message over the media, it could be that they were not adopting the right procedures. In that case the regulation could be amended to deal with the issue in another way. That is agreeable. Let them sit down and do it——

That is not exactly what we are proposing.

——but I do not think that should go into legislation. The very fact of putting it into legislation carries the implication that in some way the right is not admitted. Of course the right is admitted, subject to the parameters I have mentioned.

Deputy McCartan is talking about yesterday's business. Yesterday there were regulations there because there was no representative body in existence. We are now talking about the situation that will arise when a representative body or bodies come into existence. In that new situation of course they will have the right to convey, discuss and present to the media what their points of view are within the parameters I mentioned. Whereas in regard to the conciliation and arbitration matter I was agreeable to a declaration in principle to go into the Bill, with regard to this matter it is trivialising it to include it in the Bill. It is being restrictive. This is a fundamental right which is there anyway under the Constitution. The details and the specific issues should be left to them to work out in consultation with the authorities.

The idea that it is trivialising a right by including it in legislation is certainly a novel idea——

It is in the Constitution.

To say, as far as a right is concerned, that it is negative to insert it in a Bill is an outrageous statement. As a result of discussions on these amendments we have established beyond all doubt that the decision that representative spokespersons should be at a Defence Forces headquarters level only has been dropped.

That is correct.

I am glad that some progress has been made in that regard. The wording in the Minister's document is excellent in relation to concentrating the ideas we have put forward here and I am sure they will be acceptable to the Opposition. If that wording could be improved upon in some way and the words "spokespersons shall be permitted to make statements to the news media on specified matters which fall within the scope of the representative group" included in his own amendment I would be very happy. Otherwise I will be pressing my amendment.

When I say I will look at it between now and tomorrow I will literally do that. I cannot give a guarantee because there is a strong balance in favour of not including it. However, I will look at it between now and tomorrow and that is as far as I can put it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 2, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following subsection:

"(4) An association shall be empowered to raise moneys by subscription of its members and shall have sole discretion as to the allocation of such and any other moneys within its control.".

This is another fundamental issue and is as important as the amendment dealing with the media and with the one dealing with conciliation and arbitration. Without finance, you do not have independence, it is as simple as that. This matter is too important to be left to regulations. During the break I had an opportunity to see a submission from another command area and the kernel of their objections is that too much is being left to regulations even though they are in general agreement with them. It is central to independence that financial resources are available, that the members shall have sole discretion as to the allocation of such money, and that they have authority to raise money. The degree of independence is tied to the area of finance and the kind of money they have. The standing of the association with its own membership will depend, to a great extent, on this.

What will they be doing with the kind of finance which I have in mind in my amendment? They may wish to employ specialised agents to undertake expert work for them or to do a series in connection with their media representation. There is a vast area in this regard which need not be specified. I have a certain amount of doubt as to the total good will of the authorities. I notice in the document of the PDFORRA that while it was accepted that the association would be entitled to raise subscriptions, the level of such subscriptions was to be the subject of discussion with a representative who would emerge after the election. The members of the association will be elected by the Defence Forces. It is their own association and it will be a democratic one. They will be representing their own people and they should certainly have the right to decide on the level of subscription. If the people whom they represent do not agree to the level decided on they have the machinery, through various sections of the association, to make sure that it is changed.

I do not think that the command area, the Department or the Minister should have a say in deciding the levels of subscription. Any curtailment of the association having sole discretion about the allocation of any moneys under their control would affect their independence. They might use the money to carry out surveys within their areas of competence and the authorities might not favour this because they might not like the findings which would emerge from such surveys.

From the very start the submissions made by the officers — in so far as we have been able to see them — and PDFORRA were to the effect that if we could not give them the protection of independence deriving from the ability to raise their own money and to spend it at their sole discretion, something would be lacking in this organisation. I know that the Minister has decided there can be subscriptions and the only curtailment I can see is regarding the level of such subscriptions. I do not know what his attitude is to the association's sole discretion regarding the money within their control but I should like this amendment incorporated in the legislation, as distinct from regulations. Amendment No. 23 in Deputy Ryan's name contains something similar and it too should be accepted.

I can see the point that Deputy Nealon raised but the question of subscriptions has already been agreed in principle. The determination of the levels, among other aspects, is a matter for democratic decision. Obviously the associations will not be able to operate without a source of income, which, typically, would come through subscriptions.

Deputy Nealon is drawing on the document Permanent Defence Force Representative Groups. I would like to stress — and the Minister has already stressed this — that this is a discussion document only. There is the risk of ascribing a permanency, in quoting from that document that the document does not deserve. Deputy Kitt and I underlined to the members of PDFORRA that this is a discussion document only and that every single clause in it will be up for discussion after the elections when the parties get down to thrashing out the detail for regulation purposes. It is important to stress once more that there is no question of pre-empting the situation or restricting matters and that everything will be up for discussion. There is a lot in that document that will be acceptable and there is a lot that has to be talked about when the opportunity arises. However there is no point in ascribing an authority, a weight and a permanency to this document that it just does not deserve.

I have very definite reservations about this amendment and I will explain why. I can fully appreciate the reason for it but two important points come to mind. First, I would assume that in a situation like this, with an organisation under the one paymaster, now paid by computer, the same system should apply as applies in the public service generally, namely, the deduction scheme or check-off system as it is know within the trade union movement. In order to achieve that one would have to get written permission from each individual member. I would expect that the Truck Acts would probably apply equally to members of the Defence Forces and therefore moneys could only be deducted from their pay by way of contribution if they gave written permission.

Secondly, they could very well decide not to make a contribution at all, for example, they might want the operation to be funded by the Department of Defence. I would assume, on balance, that they would want initially to give a small contribution and to have a level of independence in financial matters. As regards travel, for example, I assume all travel to meetings and so on would not be provided by Army transport. God knows the transport situation is bad enough without getting involved in that type of activity. I assume that travel to meetings would have to be funded in the normal way that delegates or people attending meetings outside their own area would have to be paid by any association or trade union. It would be better to leave this matter flexible so that the members could decide it they are going to make a contribution, the level of that contribution and how it would be collected. I would not envisage, nor would I like to see, the old system of the shop steward or representative going around the barracks on pay day collecting money and marking the person's membership card. That would not be desirable and would lead to all sorts of complications within the system. We have talked about constitutional rights. I assume members will also have a constitutional right not to become a member of the association and that constitutional right has to be safeguarded.

The last contribution by Deputy Bell was a very interesting one, obviously based on experience, and we should take note of his views. I too am of the view that these matters have been agreed in principle and will be discussed with the elected representatives. However, there is no need to include them in the legislation. We should not interfere with this process unless it would be beneficial to the members of the Defence Forces. As Deputy Bell has said, the raising of funds, the level of subscriptions and the use of those funds are matters for the democratic decision of the members of the association. If we follow that line we will all be clear as to where we stand and the members will get the best possible deal for themselves. It goes back to the old argument whether you legislate or regulate. The process of regulation is the essence of democracy and in this instance would be in the interests of the Defence Forces. What Deputy Bell said has copperfastened my views that we should leave this matter to the process of regulation.

This, more than the last series of amendments, is a matter for the representatives of the Defence Forces. It is an important matter, a key matter, that is related very much to what they want. Also written into this is the fact that it applies to all members of the Defence Forces. There is no compulsion that all members be associated with the representative body or bodies. The funding particularly will be an aspect for consideration by the new representative body or bodies that emerge from these elections. Associated with that will be the level of funding, and this is important. As I said in my covering letter, groups will be given certain facilities by the State in the matter of accommodation and staffing. Subscriptions to meet other expenses will be permitted, the level of subscriptions to be the subject of discussion with the representatives who emerge from the election process. The reason for that is that one must be flexible.

I would not presume at this stage to set out herein what areas the new representatives would require facilities from the State. We are willing to be co-operative in this respect, specifically in the area of accommodation and staffing, and will give the facilities we feel are appropriate. There is no question about that. The new body and their representatives may feel they want a degree of independence. I am sure that is one of the reasons they want a right to raise money by way of subscription to meet certain expenses that they consider are important as far as their organisation is concerned, over and above the expenses incurred by reason of the facilities and staffing which will be made available by the State. I agree with that. However, some balance between what the State is providing and that which will be raised by way of subscription will be required, and that is what I mean by a level. Various matters have to be negotiated after discussions and consultation; these are ongoing matters. There may be a more suitable method of funding.

This type of case may be made from time to time as events develop and as the months and years go on. It is particularly a matter not for legislation and for regulation if one applies common sense to how this will operate in the new situation. I am giving the fullest guarantee to the incoming body or bodies that they will be entitled to raise funds. I would not confine them to subscriptions because there are other ways of funding. Whatever way they wish to go about raising finance, I am certain we will go along with it and this Administration will help by way of accommodation, staffing and so on. We will work out some balance where we will provide facilities and they can preserve their independence by this ancillary method of funding. The official side and the members can work out by way of discussion, negotiation and agreement exactly how we will apportion responsibility in this area.

I have made the matter very clear and it will not help in any way to deal with this in the legislation. If the Deputies think about it, it is a matter particularly suited to discussion, consultation and negotiation and for inclusion in the regulations, which can be adapted as time goes on.

I thank the Minister for his remarks which did not necessarily take me by surprise. However, may I ask two questions which refer to two further related amendments, which we will not now reach.

I suggest Deputy that we cannot deal with them.

In the context of the amendment we are discussing, and related to it are two issues——

They have to be related to the amendment.

We are dealing with a specific amendment and the Deputy should confine his question to that amendment. That is the only way we can do business.

I will. In amendment No. 12, Deputy Nealon talks about the association having sole discretion as to the allocation of moneys, and the question arises as to the association's discretion to employ civilians or to establish a permanent office, such as an office similar to the office of the Garda Representative Body. Does the Minister see any difficulty in deploying the mix of funds coming from the Department and from the members? Does he see any difficulty in the resources being applied to either or both those situations?

It is quite feasible that the association may require outside expertise to facilitate them in negotiations pending the training, which Deputy Hillery referred to earlier, of their own personnel. To take on outside experts to advise them on how to proceed with their association is a perfectly legitimate expense.

I thank the Minister for his reply, that is also a third element and it helps in understanding the extent to which the Minister agrees with the principle of Deputy Nealon's amendment. However, there are two specific issues which the representative association have raised that are not covered in the discussion document. It is important to have clearly on the record the extent of the association's discretion in applying funds whether they get them from their own members or from a joint contribution. First would they be entitled to set up similar structures to the Garda Representative Body such as a full time secretary and staff and second will they have the right to publish an internal bulletin such as Garda News?

Yes, certainly on their own matters. Obviously, if the association is to be meaningful, they will have to have a headquarters and a secretariat. I do not see any difficulties with that.

That is the second phase.

Contrary to what Deputy Bell has said, there is nothing in my amendment about the manner in which money might be raised or the manner in which it might be collected. I am simply asking for the right to raise money to be written into the Bill. The manner in which it is raised or how it is collected is an entirely different matter. This should have been in the Bill but obviously the Minister is not prepared to give on this issue. Therefore, in the interests of moving on a little further and due to the outrageous guillotine on this Bill when we will find that we will not get past the first section despite the economy of words, I will not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

We will now proceed to amendment No. 13. With your indulgence, Deputy, we propose to take amendments Nos. 13 and 18 together for discussion purposes.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 2, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following subsection:

"(5) An Association shall have the right to employ civilian agents or agencies as it deems appropriate.".

The Minister has just said that the Association will have those rights. I am not as emphatic on this amendment as I am on some other amendments because the association would not be meaningful unless they had these powers. I am sure the Minister will be assuring us that there will be no curtailment in this regard.

With regard to amendments Nos. 13 and 18, I repeat what I said on the last series of amendments that there is absolutely no curtailment on the right of the association to take on civilian agents, in fact it may be desirable to do so if they are going to initiate themselves in the intricacies of conciliation and arbitration, an area where they do not have any experience, and they may have to take on people. That is appropriate. On the question of establishing offices and maintaining a permanent staff, exterior to the military chain of command, that is a fundamental right and at all stages we have been strongly in favour of that. That is the way it will be. Obviously an association of this kind will have to be properly staffed and have a permanent office and we will facilitate them. I see the State facilitating them in making office arrangements.

Will the Minister leave this provision in the Bill? My amendment No. 18 says "the association shall be entitled to..." if after the discussions with the Minister they decide this is what they need to do.

One cannot set up an association per se unless one has offices and staff, exterior to the military chain of command. That is the whole purpose of setting up the association. It is implicit that they will have these rights and I do not see the need to have them written in to the legislation. Of course, we will have regulations to define matters more specifically as the representative association wish but as a matter of general principle by the very fact that the groups are being established, they will have offices and a permanent staff exterior to the military chain of command.

In view of the Minister's assurance and as we are fast approaching the guillotine I do not propose to press the matter.

In annex F of the Permanent Defence Force-Representative Groups Document, paragraph 11 states:

The activities of individuals in relation to the discharge of their functions as elected representatives within this structure would be regarded as official duty.

That is a very significant point and I would not like to see anything included in the Bill that might disturb it because as I understand that, the representatives will be paid during official hours for the time they would be performing their duties as elected representatives. We could be including something that would disturb this. This is very important. In general the public service have this facility and trade union representatives are paid while carrying out their union duties during normal working hours. The majority of trade unionists are treated in the same way.

Amendment No. 13 is being withdrawn and when we reach amendment No. 18 it will be withdrawn also.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 2, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following subsection:

"(3) The number of associations to be formed shall be two, and shall be designed to represent the officers on the one part and the privates and noncommissioned officers on the other part.".

A fundamental proposition advanced and no doubt our negotiators will tell us that it encapsulates the right of the non-commissioned officers and privates to organise together. In other words, there will be two representative associations established. That should be inserted because it is what they want and because in the discussion document there is a suggestion that there should be three representative bodies, which is not an acceptable proposal. I hope the Minister will accept this in principle.

I want to re-emphasise that this is a discussion document. I have changed my mind in this respect. When considering this earlier I thought it would be fair to approach it on the basis of having three bodies, one for privates, one for NCOs and one for officers but, having given the matter some thought over the past few months and, got views on it, I believe that the private and non-commissioned officers should be in one group, not two groups, and that the officers should be in a separate group. When I said that I had a preference for three groups I emphasised that it was just a preference and I also said that, in the light of experience, there could be a change in that view. I am now convinced that there should be two groups as suggested in the amendment and I believe that is the view of the majority of the PDFORRA people that Deputies have spoken to. That having been said, it is a matter they should take up with the presiding officer, Mr. Timothy Sexton of the Department of the Environment, with whom they are having discussions at the moment and will be having further discussions over the next few days. This matter will impinge on the format of the elections and, obviously, it is of great interest from the structural point of view and in regard to what they will be voting for. To that extent it is part of the election procedure process. When asking people to vote they should know beforehand whether they are voting for two or three groups. That is being teased out at the moment and is a matter for discussion and consultation. That is why I do not want to write it into the Bill. I agree with what Deputy McCartan had to say on this matter. All of us in our various contacts are getting a consensus view that there should be two bodies. I want the men to work this out for themselves. It was a mistake in the first place to suggest three associations. The consensus now appears to be working toward two associations, one incorporating NCOs and men and one for the officers. If that clarifies itself over the next few days I would envisage the election procedures being agreed and this aspect being agreed as part of the election procedures. Therefore, the men when voting will understand exactly what they are voting for.

I am withdrawing my amendment on the basis that we have on the record the Minister's agreement to the proposal.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 15 is in the name of Deputy McCartan. Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 are alternatives and we will take amendments Nos. 15, 16 and 17 together for debate.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 2, lines 35 to 37, to delete subsection (3).

My amendment seeks to delete subsection (3). The proposition that an association cannot, without the consent of the Minister, be associated with, or affiliated to, any trade union or any other body is obnoxious. We recognise the right of representative associations to be formed and to have all the responsibilities that are reflected in the constitution of PDFORRA and in the discussions and deliberations that have taken place with the negotiators. We recognise the sense of duty, discipline and honour that the Defence Forces uphold in the execution of their duties but having said all that, we are now saying to them that, while we will let them form their own association, they cannot do anything or go anywhere unless the Minister gives his approval. That is not the way we should be legislating in a so-called enabling framework. It should be a matter for the responsible members of the Defence Forces under the umbrella of their representative body to discuss, negotiate and decide who would be best suited to advance their objectives or who they should be involved with. It is not acceptable that we should leave that subject to the vagaries of any Minister who might be in office in the future. Who knows what will develop, how it will develop or what issues will need to be addressed? As I have said many times it is not so long ago that we have had Ministers who held a contrary view to that of the present Minister. At any time in the future we could have a Minister who may say one step and no further. For that reason I do not believe that this should be left in the absolute remit of the Minister of the day. He or she will have the right to countermand any proposal. The fact that nothing can be done without the consent of the Minister is, if I may use Deputy Hillery's useful phrase in academic works on good industrial relationships, non-flexible. That does not allow for flexibility for the idea of people working together. It is an element of big stick legislation of the Minister being able to say, yes, no or not at all. For that reason I ask the Minister to withdraw that subsection. I have no difficulty in supporting either one or the other of the proposals put down by Deputy Nealon or Deputy Ryan as a way of dealing with the matter. Subsection (3) should be deleted and the issue left for consultations with the Minister and the good sense of the soldiers in representative discussions.

Amendment No. 16, in my name, states:

In page 2, subsection (3), line 37, after "body." to insert "A conflict of opinion between the Minister and an association shall be referred to conciliation and arbitration and the decision shall be binding on both parties.".

My amendment eminently meets the criterion of flexibility. The Minister has the right to decide or to give his consent. It is obvious that he will give his consent. For instance, the Garda Representative Association are affiliated to another body. I have no doubt that if an application is made by any of the associations to join another group the Minister will give his consent. I can think of many excellent bodies they could be associated with without their activities being inhibited. This is the flexible or diplomatic way out of this. If there is any dispute over the giving of or refusal to give consent it should be left to the excellent system of conciliation and arbitration which will be built into the regulations. That is the way out of this problem and I have no doubt that it will be approved by this side of the House. I hope the Minister will be willing to go along with that suggestion.

It is important to acknowledge the progress that has been made in recent months and to bear in mind that members of the Defence Forces have constitutional rights that must be protected. PDFORRA in their constitution state that they do not wish to be given permission to take industrial action. They acknowledge that they are in a different position to other workers. They accept their responsibilities to the State and Dáil Éireann. However, it is up to us to protect their rights. My amendment, No. 20, states:

Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as prohibiting an association from being affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, or to international bodies whose principal purpose is to represent associations of similar character.

At the moment the members of the Defence Forces do not have any wish to be affiliated to congress but at some stage in the future they may be anxious to have associated membership. They have a right as citizens of the State to be affiliated to congress, like other citizens. We should not discriminate against them in the Bill in any respect.

There has been a reference to the similarity between the provisions in the Bill and the legislation that governed the formation of the Garda Representative Association. However, that body is affiliated to an international police federation. We are aware that PDFORRA are affiliated to an international organisation and consultations with them have proved of great help to the new body. We should not include a provision in the Bill prohibiting the new associations from affiliating to international organisations.

We should tread very carefully in regard to this issue for a number of reasons. I do not disagree with the sentiments expressed by Deputy Ryan but the problem is that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions will only accept into membership a body which is an accredited trade union and is registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies. The new organisations will not be so registered. In my view we need to have some discussion about this with congress. I suggest that we try to find an acceptable formula to deal with that issue between now and Report Stage. I have not had time to consult with my colleague about this matter but I have no doubt he will accept my views.

Section 3 does not preclude the new associations from affiliating with international groups, but it requires that the consent of the Minister be obtained. PDFORRA have many connections outside the country but they are not official. I do not think it would be in the best interests of the Defence Forces to move in that direction without the consent of the Minister who is after all the person responsible to the House of the Oireachtas and the country for what happens in the Defence Forces. I do not think we should have an organisation representing the Defence Forces going all over the place. It should be remembered that we are talking about the Defence Forces of the State and not about an ordinary trade union. For example, if we do not include this provision what is to stop any of the associations affiliating to a South African organisation or affiliating to an organisation whose policies will be contrary to our neutral stance? We have stayed away from NATO and we have jealously guarded our neutrality but now it appears that we are encouraging the Army to link up with international organisations who came under the NATO umbrella. We should have another look at this issue.

There is no mention of NATO in the amendments.

I am referring to the three amendments before the House.

Where is there a mention of NATO in the amendments?

We are talking about international organisations, as mentioned in Deputy Ryan's amendment.

Deputy Ryan's amendment refers to international bodies. The Deputy is correct.

Deputy McCartan is not reading the amendments before the House.

It is obvious what Deputy Bell is talking about.

Where is there a mention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation?

I am not talking about the National Tenants' Association. I am entitled to give my views on these amendments. The order of the House is a matter for the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and not Deputy McCartan.

The Chair does not relish reminding Members that they are not acting in accordance with Standing Orders. I request Deputy McCartan to bear with Deputy Bell when he is in possession, as other Members do when he is making his contribution. If there was agreement all the time there would be no need for us.

I am not saying that members of the Defence Forces should not affiliate to international organisations but such affiliation should be subject to the consent of the Minister. From a purely military point of view, and in the interests of the Defence Forces and the country, affiliation to any organisation should be subject to consultation and agreement with the Minister of the day. I am sure that can be agreed with the Minister.

I should like to remind Deputy Nealon of what occurred when there was compulsory arbitration in regard to a claim by teachers. A sum in the region of £80 million was agreed at arbitration but the Government of the day decided after a long hassle that only £30 million would be paid to the teachers and £50 million remains outstanding. Conciliation and arbitration for the Defence Forces should be agreed by the representatives following discussions. In other words, if agreement is not reached at local level or at conciliation it should be a matter for the members to opt for arbitration. If they opt for that course they will be aware that the decision will be binding. I do not think it should be written in because it would pre-empt the outcome and everything would be pushed into arbitration on that basis. Some flexibility should be left there.

I support the view that there should be an independent association similar to that of the Garda Síochána. The draft PDFORRA constitution submitted by individual members provides that: "the association shall be a non political organisation and shall not be aligned to any other organisation whatsoever". That is another interesting point to which I would like to refer. Deputy Bell is right in saying that the important thing is to have an independent association up and running and to have it set up properly. Quite frankly this is not a major issue with PDFORRA and it did not emerge in the 11 hour discussions which Deputy Hillery and I had with them. They want their own association set up and they want to get that right. The point referred to by Deputy Bell on the whole question of affiliation with international bodies is an inportant one. I referred to it on Second Stage and it has been referred to also by Deputy Ryan and his amendment.

As the House may be aware, there is an unofficial link with Euromil and PDFORRA but, basically, that exists in the absence of an association. PDFORRA are very conscious of the need to have their own association in line with legal requirements. I see the danger of a linkage with international bodies. There is a direct link between the Army of a nation or an Army association and with the country and with the whole policies of that country with regard to military neutrality. We have a particular stance on our neutrality. I strongly support it. It is an issue of crucial importance and the vast majority of members here would agree with me but there are some who do not and I accept that, but I see the direct link in this debate with that issue. It is a major issue and I am convinced that it is an important issue within the Defence Forces.

If these people get their own association up and running it is in their interest and in the interests of the country in general to have an independent association. Deputy Bell is correct in saying that if there is a need for affiliation the consent of the Minister should be provided for in that event. It has all to do with the special position of the Defence Forces. I subscribe to the view that they have a special role. Because of that special role we require an independent association free from any interference with other organisations. It has to be a very clear-cut independent organisation.

I am very anxious to put this matter properly into perspective. I agree with Deputy Kitt that this is very much a side issue. The main purpose of this whole endeavour is to get our own independent Defence Forces organisation up and running by agreement, consultation and so on. Affiliation with other bodies is a matter that will be very much down the road. There is an important point of principle involved. That is the reason the specific provision is there requiring the consent of the Minister.

This legislation, and the regulations that are envisaged, will all relate to the Defence Forces body or bodies. That is the whole purpose of this exercise. Now we are talking about affiliation with other bodies that are not being regulated by regulation or are not subject to statute as this body will be. We will set up our own national body under the legislation of the Oireachtas and the regulations agreed with this new body or bodies will be incorporated in legislation of the Oireachtas. We are talking about that national position. This is very important when you consider that we are talking about a body or bodies who will encompass members of our Defence Forces. One is into a totally different ball game if we talk about organisations outside the legislation. Surely that is particularly a matter which should lie with the discretion of the Minister. He must take into account that any involvement with other bodies will not and should not in any way compromise the position of the Defence Forces either within or without the State. That is a particular responsibility which I, or whoever is in my job, has to fulfil. That is the essential requirement of his oath of office. His prime responsibility is to the State in regard to the Defence Forces.

Surely it is a matter of primary concern who the major national body associates or affiliates with, inside or outside the country because that is a matter that could have a security implication. I am not going to say that that will be the position in every case. There will be numerous cases where there will be requests for affiliation with a body such as the Irish Conference of Professional Services Association, which would require the consent of the Minister but, of course, that would be one I would clearly consent to or any other association of that kind that would encompass members of the representative group or groups, for example, engineers; there may be involved members of an outside engineering association, as well as members of the Defence Forces organisation. Clearly there is a whole range of constructive or innocuous affiliations which a Minister for Defence would allow but there could be — and this is where the responsibility comes in — undesirable affiliations that would cut across policy matters.

Deputy Bell was perfectly correct in relation to policy matters. I knew what he was talking about but Deputy McCartan did not. Deputy Bell was talking about our military neutrality which is the policy of this State at present and on which all parties agree. There might be some question of a wrong association with another such body, association or union of an army or state that had a strong aggressive military policy in certain directions. I am taking that as an example of what Deputy Bell was talking about. There is a major policy aspect involved.

In my view 90 per cent of the affiliates with which Defence Force members would wish to associate would be acceptable but I must keep, on behalf of this State as Minister for Defence, a section of this kind there to ensure that I, as Minister, acting in the broad responsible manner, about which I have spoken, would be obliged to examine on its merits each such application for association or affiliation. Where I see a conflict between such affiliation or association, either inside or outside the country, and the security of the State, either internally or externally, then obviously I will have to make a decision. That is my primary function. The function provided for in this Bill is a very important one. I am glad to be in a position to facilitate this very progressive measure through the Dáil and the Seanad and to ensure its implementation. It is still secondary to my primary duty, as Minister for Defence in an Irish Government, which is to the national interest and the security of this State. I must have that subsection in the Bill to fulfil that duty.

I want to bring you all back to what we are talking about, that is a trade and representative association which is specifically excluded from dealing with anything vaguely touching on operations, maintenance, command and the constitution of the Defence Forces. There is no question that could arise about tainting our neutrality or our policy position on that matter when we are talking about one trade representative association within the Defence Forces being associated in any way with a trade or representative association on a European basis. No one has ever suggested anything of the like. It is regrettable to hear it from a Labour Deputy who is trying to do down his own colleague who is here trying to advance nothing more than the work conditions, pay and remuneration of the Defence Forces. That is all we have given the association the right to deal with so far.

The PDFORRA do not see it that way.

I am here in this Dál providing for the future in enabling fundamental legislation.

If the Deputy is not interested——

The Minister should not try to run me around——

(Interruptions.)

I must now put the question.

It is very unfortunate that a guillotine motion has been put on this Bill.

On a point of order——

There is no point of order after 5 p.m.

Given that we have debated 21 of the 36 amendments during the past two days, I believe it is totally unacceptable to take a vote at this stage of the debate.

Please resume your seat, Deputy Ryan.

There is a guillotine——

I am carrying out the order of the House. The Deputy should resume his seat or I will ask him to leave the House.

This is totally unacceptable.

The Deputy was here this morning and he heard the order of the House. No matter what you, I or anybody else thinks the order of the House must be carried out. I must put the question.

We did not get an opportunity to discuss it.

The question is: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Defence are hereby made to the Bill; in respect of the sections undisposed of, that the section or, as appropriate, the section, as amended, is hereby agreed to; that the Title is hereby agreed to and that the Bill, as amended, is hereby reported to the House."

On a point of order, does that include the ministerial amendment to section 30?

Yes. That is the amendment I am talking about.

The Minister's amendment is very important. This Bill was guillotined but we did not—

(Interruptions.)

The trouble is that some Deputies do not listen.

That is right.

The question was "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Defence are hereby made to the Bill——

The question is not agreed to.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 66; Níl, 63.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P. J.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • FitzGerald, Garret.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies J. Higgins and Howlin.
Question declared carried.
Report Stage Ordered for Thursday, 29 March 1990.