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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 12 Jun 1990

Vol. 399 No. 10

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take Nos. 11 and 12.

It is also proposed that the proceedings on the Committee and remaining Stages of No. 11, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only amendments set down by the Minister for Justice.

Private Members' Business shall be No. 31, motion 55.

Are the proposals for dealing with No. 11 agreed?

In relation to the Government seeking to have No. 11 taken today, an agreement was reached by the Whips last week that the Broadcasting Bill would be discussed for two hours this evening, all day Thursday and all day Friday. That agreement is effectively rendered useless. We are opposing the Order of Business and the taking of any other business on that basis.

We have consistently opposed the use of the guillotine as a device in this House. It is ironic in the context of the abolition of the death penalty that the Minister is seeking to use the guillotine. It is doubly objectionable in view of the fact that the Broadcasting Bill is not being reintroduced at Second Stage. We are opposing the Order of Business.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 11 be agreed."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 76; Níl, 63.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Gallagher, pat the Cope.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morely, P. J.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.


  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Gallagher and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Howlin and McCartan.
Question declared carried.

Over several weeks on the Order of Business, I have raised the issue of the appropriateness of there being an Irish position paper prepared in advance of the Summit that will take place on 26 June. The related matter was a request for a debate. I accept now that there has been a decision not to have an Irish paper, something I deeply deplore but, nevertheless, the Taoiseach indicated to the House on two occasions that there would be a full debate rather than statements in the House. It now appears that the Government Chief Whip has suggested there should be statements and not the debate indicated by the Taoiseach. I put it to the Chair that that was a disgraceful misleading of the House. Further issues arise. For example, if there will be statements, who will make them? Will a Government statement be circulated in advance? My principal reason for rising is to say that an undertaking given to the House more than once on the Order of Business for a full debate has been broken by the proposals intended for next week. I should like to ask the Tánaiste if it is his intention, speaking on behalf of the Government, to stick to the original undertaking of the Taoiseach or whether it is his intention to make some other proposal to the House.

I understand that this matter has been agreed between the Whips.

It has not.

I understand that the proposal is to have a debate on Thursday. We can have a sensible exchange of views then and I do not know why the Deputy is getting so excited about the whole matter.

This cannot go on.

It will not go on.

I have my doubts about it being raised at this time.

I will complete my point without using personal aspersions. If that be the Tánaiste's inclination, it is not mine. The Tánaiste has repeated that there will be a debate in the House and the Taoiseach repeated that there will be a debate but what has been prepared by the Government Chief Whip is an arrangement for the making of statements. Which of them is telling the truth?

The Deputy does not appreciate that Whips organise the business of the House.

I appreciate that.

The business for Thursday has been agreed between the Whips in regard to the matter the Deputy has mentioned.

That is not so.

The form of that debate can be one in which statements can be exchanged. That is a form of debate, unless the Deputy has lost his appreciation of the nuances of the English language.

I know the difference between a debate and a statement, particularly when it comes from the Government side of the House.

I should like to ask the Tánaiste, in view of the Chair's decision to disallow my Private Notice Question on the sale of Cablelink, whether the Government propose to introduce legislation to amend the Telecommunications Act in view of the fact that there is no provision in existing legislation for Telecom to enter into the cable television business.

May I respectfully suggest that the Deputy should put down a question on that matter. This is not in order now.

Surely I am entitled to ask whether there is promised legislation in the light of the decision by the Government?

Either the legislation has been promised or it has not. It has not been promised.

May I intervene in this? This matter has been the subject of several attempts by this side of the House to put down questions. I had a question down to the Taoiseach about this some time ago and it was disallowed. The House is not being told anything of what is going on. The sinister and clumsy hand of the current Minister for Communications is in here.

This is intolerable.

He is the person who ordered the Authority to sell Cablelink to Telecom.

The Deputy is on a loser.

We cannot debate the matter now.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce stuck his finger into the pie after that.

Deputy Dukes should desist.

This is an important matter.

It is so important that it should be discussed and debated in a proper manner.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce referred the issue to the Fair Trade Commission and comes back and says he is going to allow it to be sold. I am beginning to wonder if that was the price the Progressive Democrats had to pay for the Broadcasting Bill. We have seen no justification from the Minister and no report has come from the Fair Trade Commission. This whole matter is being deliberately hidden from the House.

The Deputy is trying to stiffen them up behind.

On a number of occasions in recent times, I tried to raise this issue. Specifically, I alleged the involvement of the Taoiseach in overriding the Minister for Communications and causing the board of RTE to dispose of Cablelink to Telecom in order to facilitate the design of the current chairman of Telecom to privatise Telecom Éireann. Can we anticipate legislation on this?

Flights of fancy.

Deputy Rabbitte should resume his seat. The Deputy has been advised that it is in order at this time to ask a question about legislation that is proposed. I do not have to tell the Deputy the difference between what is proposed and what is anticipated by a Deputy.

I accept that.

The Deputy, in accepting that, leads me to assume he will act by it. It is not proposed legislation and, therefore, it is not in order to query it.

I am referring to what was said by the Chairman of Telecom. What he said cannot be implemented without legislation. Can we expect the Government to bring forward legislation to do that——

If the Deputy does not resume his seat, I will have to ask him to leave.

——like they have to do in regard to the privatisation of Irish Life or do I have to ask Michael McDowell outside the House? Will he tell us what the Government intend doing?

Deputy Rabbitte should leave the House.

It is disgraceful of the Government to sell Cablelink to Telecom in order to prepare Telecom for privatisation.

Deputy, please leave the House.

I am leaving the House but I must say that what the Government are doing is a disgrace, despite the commitment given by the Taoiseach. What I have said has been borne out by the Chairman of Telecom, Michael Smurfit, when he made it clear that he intends to dispose of Telecom at the first opportunity.

The Deputy is deemed to have left the Chamber.

The Deputy should leave the Chamber.

Deputy Rabbitte withdrew from the Chamber.

Will the Chair advise me if it is in order to raise a question on whether it is necessary to introduce legislation to permit a decision of the Government to go ahead?

It is not in order.

It seems to me that they are acting ultra vires and outside the order of the House if they do so.

Every Ceann Comhairle, or his representative, who has sat in this Chair has reminded the House that on the Order of Business we hear a statement of what the Taoiseach proposes. At that time, any Member of the House is in order to refer to legislation which is proposed but which may not appear on the Order of Business. That is not my doing, it is the traditional and stated order and if Deputies want it changed they have the power to do so. However, until it is changed the occupant of the Chair must carry out your wishes in respect of that matter, not his own.

Having regard to the decisions of the last few weeks, am I in order in inquiring, through the Tánaiste, when the Government propose to reintroduce the Derelict Sites Bill — which has been amended in the Seanad — to this House? Will it be taken before this session ends?

I will inquire about the present state of play in regard to that and I will communicate with the Deputty later in the afternoon.

In regard to the same topic of promised legislation, does the Tánaiste know the exact position over the remaining weeks in respect of debates on the Estimates? When will the text of the Bill dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency be circulated?

That can be discussed by the Whips as I understand they are now in the course of preparing the programme for the rest of the session.

I appreciate that the Tánaiste may not be fully briefed on this matter. Will the Minister for the Environment say whether the text of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill has been cleared by Cabinet? Has it left the office of the parliamentary draftsman?

It was run over by a bulldozer in Castlebar.


The Minister for the Environment has been asked to give information to the House. He is offering this information and the House should respect him.

It is hoped to take the Bill during this session.

Has the Bill been cleared by the Government and the office of the Attorney General? Has it left the office of the parliamentary draftsman?

That is our business.

The Tánaiste has not seen even a draft of the Bill.

I am sure Deputy Quinn will accept that he has been in order and has received a reasonable amount of information.

I appreciate that the Bill is stuck somewhere.

In relation to promised legislation, if the Government are having difficulty in drafting and circulating the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, the Fine Gael Party will be quite happy for them to reintroduce our Bill, against which they voted some four months ago.

Deputy Shatter is the best interpreter of how his offerings are received by the Government.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the subject matter of Question No. 83 last Thursday to the Minister for Education.

We must get the agreement of the House in this regard. In respect of Standing Orders — which we carry out on your behalf — it is required to get the agreement of the House to deal with a request to raise a matter on the Adjournment as it is after 4 p.m. I presume we are agreed?

I agree.

Agreed. The Ceann Comhairle will communicate with the Deputy.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the circumstances surrounding the escape of an inmate from Trinity House, Lusk, and the subsequent stabbing of a psychologist who was called in to help him when he was rearrested.

The Ceann Comhairle will communicate with the Deputy.

As my Private Notice Question regarding the disgraceful incidents at Castlebar last week have been disallowed, I wish, on the Adjournment, to ask the Minister for Justice the steps he is taking concerning the failure of the Garda Síochána in Castlebar, County Mayo, to provide adequate protection for peaceful protestors at The Lawn in Castlebar as three people were injured and hospitalised and whether protests will continue in a peaceful manner.

A Deputy

Deputy Garland should stay in Upper Churchtown Road.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the failure of the Minster for Education to appoint caretakers to schools throughout the country and its effect on the running of the schools and the children's education.

The Ceann Comhairle will communicate with the Deputy.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the exorbitant cost of insurance for young drivers and reports today of further increases.

The Ceann Comhairle will communicate with Deputy Deenihan.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment — bearing in mind that 10,500 students failed to obtain Grade D on the ordinary mathematics paper in 1989 — the need for a second ordinary syllabus of equal standard, but of more practical content, to be introduced as recommended by the mathematics committee of the MCCA.

The Ceann Comhairle will communicate with the Deputy.

Will the Minister for the Marine inform the House whether the task force report on air-sea marine rescue services has been discussed by Cabinet? Will the Tánaiste say when Second Stage of the Land Commission (Dissolution) Bill will come before the House?

The latter question may be in order but I am not too sure about the first one.

There is no legislation involved——

The Taoiseach has scooped the pot for his executive jet.

Legislation is involved but I do not know what stage the Bill has reached. I will communicate with the Deputy.

I should like to raise on the Adjournment the subject matter of Question No. 144 of Wednesday last.

The Ceann Comhairle will communicate with Deputy Gilmore.

I should like to raise on the Adjournment the question of an in-flight refugee who has been incarcerated in Limerick Jail without trial since 10 May. I have asked the Minister for Justice on numerous occasions to release this man to the Red Cross or into the care of an Irish citizen but he has refused.

The Ceann Comhairle will communicate with the Deputy.

I should like to raise on the Adjournment the further prison disturbance which took place yesterday in Limerick and the need for urgent measures to be taken by the Minister for Justice to prevent a recurrence.

The Ceann Comhairle will communicate with Deputy O'Keeffe.

I beg your indulgence for a moment or two to bring a matter to the attention of the Chair and the House because the Chair frequently says — sometimes quite rightly — that Deputies should raise questions about some of the issues brought up here. I should like to relate a little experience to you, Sir, if I may and I will be very orderly about it. I put down a question to the Taoiseach asking whether the acquisition of an executive jet and the purchase of a search and rescue helicopter were seen as competing options. On 7 June I was informed that the question had been transferred by the Taoiseach to the Minister for Defence. On 11 June I was informed that the same question had been transferred by the Minister for Defence to the Minister for Tourism and Transport. It is a much travelled question, it gets around a lot in the executive jet and helicopter. To clarify the situation I put down a question to the Taoiseach, to ask him — for the period since 24 October last — the number of questions submitted for answer by him, the number of such questions ruled out of order, the number of such questions transferred to other Ministers and the reasons because we would like elucidation on this side of the House about what we may question and how we go about it. You can imagine my astonishment to find in my post this morning a letter from the Ceann Comhairle ruling my question out of order on the grounds that the Taoiseach has not official responsibility to the Dáil in relation to these matters. That brings me back to an argument I had some time ago with the Ceann Comhairle. I find in the Official Report of 8 May 1990, at column 838 — in relation to the transfer of questions — the following statement by the Ceann Comhairle:

The Chair has no function in the matter appertaining to the transfer of questions. That has been, and always has been, a matter for the Taoiseach and his Cabinet of the day.

What I am saying to you, Sir, is that whether the Chair realises it or not, whether the Chair understands its importance or not, the Taoiseach's Government are transferring questions to other Ministers, seeking to avoid answering questions on the spurious grounds that they have no responsibility therefor. I am relying on you, Sir, to be a faithful messenger for me to the Ceann Comhairle; to tell the Ceann Comhairle that that kind of conduct on the part of the Government should not be tolerated by this House, by its officers or Chairman.


Hear, hear.

The Deputy's reliance on my capacity as a messenger is not necessary. What he has said will have been recorded and I am sure the Ceann Comhairle will take note of it. The Leader of the main Opposition Party knows that what he has heard from the Ceann Comhairle now is the eternal statement of the reality of the position irrespective of whichever Taoiseach or Government may be in office. Until such time as it is changed I do not think there is any point in appealing to me or to anybody else to have it altered.

I am sorry, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I have a letter from the Ceann Comhairle saying that the Taoiseach has no responsibility for the transfer of questions. Yet there was another statement on the part of the Ceann Comhairle, recorded in the Official Report of 8 may 1990, saying and I quote again:

That has been, and always has been, a matter for the Taoiseach and his Cabinet of the day.

I am relying on you, Sir, to tell the Ceann Comhairle of our deep disquiet about the matter. If you wish Sir, I will write the Ceann Comhairle a little note saying that I am a firm believer in the principle that, if one does not like the message, one should not shoot the messenger.

I might suggest that, instead of all this correspondence, Deputy Dukes might call over to the Ceann Comhairle and discuss this matter with him. Everybody is welcome in the Ceann Comhairle's office.

With your permission, Sir, I wish to raise on the Adjournment the plight of a former unemployment benefit recipient in County Mayo whose appeal has been turned down again on the grounds that it is invalid, and whose case was the subject of Parliamentary Question No. 106 of 27 May 1990.

The Ceann Comhairle's office will communicate with Deputy Higgins.

With your permission, Sir, I would like to raise on the Adjournment the failure of the Government to introduce a drugs subsidy scheme promised last August and the considerable hardship caused many people with long-term illnesses, including asthmatics?

The Ceann Comhairle's office will communicate with the Deputy.

In the course of the last Dáil and the preceding one we discussed the Shannon Estuarial Authority Bill. Would the Tánaiste say whether the Government have taken a decision in relation to its reintroduction in this session or before the end of this year?

No decision has been taken; it is not promised.

It is not being reintroduced?

It may be.

The Tánaiste's enthusiasm is overwhelming.

The Shannon estuary is down the Swanee.

Deputy Spring will accept that that particular Bill is not flowing into the House.

It is creating waves; that is the problem.

Ba mhaith liom arís cead a iarraidh an cheist seo a phlé ar an Athló, is é sin drochchaoi gairmscoil Cholmcille in Indreabhán, Contae na Gaillimhe, agus an chaoi nár comhlíonadh geallúintí an Aire Stáit feabhas a chur ar an scoil.

D'ardaigh tú an cheist sin cheana, agus beidh oifig an Cheann Comhairle i gcomhairle leat in a thaobh.

On the Order of Business may I inquire from the Minister for Justice whether it is intended that the Committee and remaining Stages of the Criminal Law Rape (Amendment) Bill will be passed by this House before the end of this session because of its urgency?

I would hope so; it is a matter for the Whips.

While appreciating that ultimately the Whips will be advised of the order from the point of view of the Government, can the Minister for Justice indicate whether he is aware of the pressures being exerted to have that Bill passed as soon as possible?

That is why the Bill is before the House because of the concern in relation to it. It is my intention that it be passed as soon as possible.

With regard to legislation promised and in view of the fact that everybody who casts a line in a river or lake today in search of trout or coarse fish is knowingly breaking the law, does the Minister for the Marine propose introducing amending legislation to regularise matters during this term?

Is it promised legislation?

It is at present being examined in the Attorney General's office.

Is it expected that it will be introduced this term?

I am hopeful.

I have my doubts.