Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Establishment of Oireachtas Committee.

Peter Barry

Question:

4 Mr. Barry asked the Taoiseach if the Government will establish an Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs.

This matter was decided by the House on 7 March 1990.

Would the Taoiseach not reconsider? I know he stated in this House that the House decided not to have a foreign affairs committee, but the fact is that every party in the House, with the exception of Fianna Fáil, want to have a foreign affairs committee. Would the Taoiseach not now agree, particularly in view of the events we will be debating in this House next week and in the future, that it would serve this House well to have a forum in which foreign affairs issues could be debated in detail?

I am sorry to have to tell the Deputy that I do not agree. The reasons which compelled the Fine Gael-Labour Government of which he was a member to categorically turn down this proposal apply to me.

You are afraid of it.

Will the Taoiseach agree that since the debate on 7 March 1990 to which he referred there have been numerous international events and crises, including Cambodia and the situation in the Gulf, and even occurring during the recess just ended, to justify the establishment of a foreign affairs committee? Does the Taoiseach not agree that it is rather odd that we are the only Parliament among Parliaments like ours in Europe, who do not have such a committee? What is it that immediately disqualifies this House from having a foreign affairs committee like every other Parliament in Europe? Who is against it and what are the objections?

I do not think we are the only Parliament in Europe who do not have a foreign affairs committee.

We have plenty of opportunity to discuss foreign affairs and all the issues which the Deputy has mentioned. I am always courteous and at the Deputy's disposal to help him in regard to these matters. I am available to facilitate him and to investigate at first hand. I am sorry if I upset you——

This is nonsense.

——but I always upset you, so let us take it for granted that you are upset all the time——

(Interruptions.)

——and that unless you are indulging in personal vindictive vituperation, you are not happy.

(Interruptions.)

You always look as if you believe it.

(Interruptions.)

That is nonsense and you know it.

You refused to answer questions here on the Gulf crisis.

The Deputy has plenty of opportunities in this House through questions, debates or otherwise to debate all the matters that are of concern to him. A foreign affairs committee would not serve any useful purpose. In fact, it could be detrimental from the point of view of the conduct of our foreign affairs. The reasons that applied when the Government of which Deputy Dukes and Deputy Spring were members turned down this proposal apply now.

(Interruptions.)

Absolute nonsense.

Order. Deputy Shatter had been offering.

Would the Taoiseach then confirm to the House that no credibility should ever be given to the suggestion of the Progressive Democrats that they are in favour of such a committee? Will the Taoiseach indicate what steps his coalition colleagues in Government have taken to try to secure the establishment of such a committee in this House?

A Deputy

Ask them yourself.

I answer here for the Government——

Have you spoken to them?

I answer here for my own——

(Interruptions.)

So much for Dáil reform.

Deputy Proinsias De Rossa.

While I would be the first to acknowledge that there has been more discussion on foreign affairs matters on the floor of this House during the past year than there was in previous years — we got an hour or two——

(Interruptions.)

In view of the ongoing changes which are taking place, the major debates that will not conclude in December at the IGC on political union, on the new question of security and Ireland's role in security and so forth may I suggest to the Taoiseach that it would be important to have a forum where Deputies from all parties who are concerned in and interested about these matters would have a role in examining and looking at these issues on an ongoing basis and not just on the basis of occasional debates, whether they be long or short, in this House where there is not really an opportunity to tease out in detail the issues concerned?

I think that between these debates, Question Time and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs there is plenty of opportunity to tease out all of these matters. I assure the Deputy I will not be reticent in providing time in the Dáil to discuss these major issues which are coming up — economic and monetary union and political union. As the thing unfolds — and it will be unfolding over a considerable period of time — both I and my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs will report to this House and we will endeavour to give the House every possible opportunity to debate them.

I want to put a direct question to the Taoiseach: how can he justify his statement that adequate time is given in this House to debate these issues when from mid-July 1990 to the end of January 1991 this House will have sat for only 25 days? How can he suggest, with all the pressures there will be on those 25 sitting days, that there will be adequate time given to discuss these serious international issues?

There will be.

Black is white if you expect us to believe that.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins for a final supplementary.

May I ask the Taoiseach if he would reconsider his position in view of the fact that a foreign affairs committee could meet out of parliamentary session and could discuss, for example, the evolving situation in Cambodia? Is the Taoiseach not aware that the terms of reference of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs do not extend to enable us to discuss, for example, the future of European political union? Does he propose to change the terms of reference of the Oireachtas Joint Committee to enable us to discuss that issue?

With regard to the Deputy's last point, this Parliament, and not just the Government, will have an input through the assizes into the question of political union in Europe. The committee the Deputy mentioned is the agent through which this Parliament will supply its views to that process.