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


I move amendment No. 30:

In page 5, lines 15 to 17, to delete subsection (2).

This section sets out the circumstances in which possession of a share certificate may be required in order to fish. Sixty per cent of the ordinary members eligible to vote must vote in favour of the requirement. This scheme was worked out in discussions with the various angling interests. I am exempted persons under 18 years of age and those aged 66 and over. As well as that, and again in discussion with the various angling interests, we decided to exempt the long term unemployed in receipt of social welfare assistance and persons in receipt of invalidity pensions.

With regard to amendment No. 30, the intention in the original package, which was worked out in consultation with angling interests, was to have a mid-term review of the decision under this section. There is general agreement now that this would be unwise and complicated and I am proposing to delete subsection (2). In order to give official status to any decision taken by a society, arrangements are being made for the publication of the decision in Iris Oifigiúil, and this is covered by subsection (3). In subsection (4) there is a provision that production of a copy of the Iris Oifigiúil containing notice of a decision may be used as evidence in any legal proceedings which may arise in relation to the requirement to possess a share certificate. That is the raison d'etre for amendments Nos. 30 and 31.

I should have mentioned perhaps that we would take amendment No. 31 with amendment No. 30 as it is consequential. I presume that is in order. Agreed.

This is the most appalling section of the Bill. This section allows the societies to decide to prevent the individual citizen from fishing in our rivers and lakes unless he holds a share certificate. We are creating a closed shop by establishing these societies with all their corporate members, who can decide by a vote of 60 per cent to require an individual to hold a share certificate in order to fish in a river or lake. The Bill was bad enough with that provision, but the Minister is now proposing to remove the right of the society to rescind that decision — in other words once the decision is made by 60 per cent of the members, nobody else can fish in a river or lake without a share certificate.

Section 9 (2) would have given the society the right to rescind that decision. There was a certain amount of hope that if the membership of a society changed or if their views on the rights of an individual citizen were to change, they could rescind their decision under this section. Now the Minister is removing that right and is making the situation worse. The only explanation he has given us for this change is to state "there is general agreement that it would be unwise" to leave in this subsection. Who is in general agreement with the Minister on this matter? Is this another example of the private discussions the Minister has been having with some of the interests in this dispute? Has the Minister agreed with them to change some of the terms of the Bill as published? This makes the situation much worse.

I do not know who is in general agreement with the Minister on this issue. I do not recall this subsection becoming the subject of a great deal of public discussion. I cannot recall reading a single line in a newspaper commenting on this provision in the Bill. I cannot recall any organisation commenting on their unhappiness with societies having the right to rescind a decision taken by 60 per cent of its members. Yet the Minister says out it goes. We are entitled to a fuller explanation than what we have been given up to now.

I am opposed to this section of the Bill. Whatever about the provisions to establish societies and giving them the right to decide that their members must have a share certificate, it is going beyond the point of reasonableness when societies can exclude the individual citizen from fishing.

Let us deal with the amendments before we come to deal with the section.

The basis for the rod licence dispute was that many people in our community were unwilling to forego the traditional rights which had been enjoyed with regard to fishing. Section 9 will effectively remove those traditional rights. Whatever prospects there had been that decisions taken under section 9 would be rescinded are now being removed and once the society makes the decision, the ladder is taken away and that will be the position for all time.

I am appalled that the Minister has tabled this amendment to section 9, which is the fundamental essence of the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1990. As Deputy Gilmore has said, section 9 is quite unacceptable as it stands — we on this side of the House oppose it — but the amendment which the Minister has now put is totally unacceptable. Not alone will it further copperfasten the general principle of section 9, it goes a step further and makes the societies even more exclusive. It is taking from the societies the power to rescind a decision taken under this section, as originally proposed in the Bill. The section as amended will prevent the societies from rescinding a decision as to who may fish and this is a very backward step. I am amazed that the Minister has seen fit to table this amendment on Committee Stage. One must question what has happened since the Bill was originally drafted. I see the hand of bureaucracy heavily in place in the drafting of this amendment. I can see senior officials in the Department wishing to get back to square one where they started two to three years ago. What appears as a minimal change is in fact fundamental to the essence of the Bill.

This amendment is appalling and we on this side of the House strongly oppose it.

I wish also to oppose this amendment. The Minister has not given an adequate reason for introducing it. The Minister talks all the time about consulting with the angling interests, but I would like to know with which angling groups he consulted. The Minister certainly has not consulted the National Anglers Representative Association, which — as he well knows — represents anglers from all over the country, from counties Mayo, Cavan, Kildare and Cork. This is a very representative association and they are extremely angry with the many provisions in this Bill and they certainly are not in agreement with this proposed amendment.

It can be argued that the section is unconstitutional as it gives excessive control to persons over a public asset which they do not own. There are many free fisheries in Ireland, especially the former Crown lakes in the west. A society is allowed to make the purchase of a share certificate compulsory before an angler can fish waters which the society does not own. Such waters are the property of every Irish citizen and a co-operative cannot by vote exclude people from enjoying them. There are a couple of minor problems with this section. For example, there is reference to the area of control of the society. That is a very vague measure. There should be some clause whereby a map would be provided so that the delineated area that the society controls is quite clear. Fishery owners should be exempt from this measure when fishing their own waters. For these reasons I oppose the amendment.

I have opposed every amendment so far and I also have to oppose this one, more on principle than anything else. The 60 per cent provision was not acceptable but to delete it completely horrifies me. If this amendment is carried there will be confrontation in fisheries. I have received representations indicating that some of the fisheries group fear there will be a closed shop if this amendment is passed. The 60 per cent would at least be of some help but to delete it would realise the fears of the people who fear that they will have no comeback.

The whole thrust of this section needs to be teased out a little more. I am anxious to know with whom the Minister discussed this matter. He said that having had discussions with groups he had decided not to implement this aspect of the Bill. Some people to whom I have spoken have very vehemently said they would oppose any compulsory aspect of this section. Here again we are operating without the rules of societies being outlined to us. The Minister included in the Bill the 60 per cent provision — he called it a democratic procedure — but he is now deleting it. That provision was a redeeming factor and to delete it would be a recipe for confrontation between groups who fear they would be deprived of the right to fish, with no redress whatsoever. This amendment is very weak.

We are going through a rather futile procedure this morning. It is just a charade because the Minister has in mind to get this Bill through one way or another. We have a deputy to the people who have asked us to oppose compulsory measures in the legislation. The people are afraid that a compulsory measure will be introduced whereby some group will have control and they will be denied the right to fish. Therefore I have to oppose the amendment.

We have the right to act as watchdogs, irrespective of the Minister's intention to get the amendment through. It is our duty to speak out about every section of the Bill. When the legislation was originally introduced the Oireachtas was guilty of not taking into account all aspects involved. Therefore, it is our duty on this occasion to look at the Bill line by line and ensure that nothing goes through that will make it worse than when it was presented.

If the Minister's amendment to delete this section is passed the co-operative societies, once they make a decision, will not have the right to rescind it. In three, four or five years' time new members in a society, may adopt a different attitude to the rule about the necessity to have share certificates in order to fish. It would be like a GAA club, or any club, making a decision and nobody being able to alter it.

If a club or society decide by a majority of 60 per cent that people can not fish on a lake without a share certificate, is it the fisheries officers who will check to see if the people fishing have share certificates? All sorts of complications would arise just as they do for example, when assessing people for unemployment assistance and so on. The essence of this measure is exactly what the anglers opposed when the original licence was introduced. When a person is out fishing on a lake the last thing he or she wants is a speed-boat disturbing their peace and activity by asking them whether they have a share certificate or a licence. Under the 60 per cent provision in the first Bill it was entirely a matter for the societies to make a decision by a majority of 60 per cent of their members as to whether or not to implement that rule. If we accept this amendment and in two or three year's time the society realise they made a mistake in deciding by a majority of 60 per cent that this rule would apply, it will not be possible for them to rescind the decision, even if all members agree.

The Minister consulted many people about this Bill but I do not know whom he consulted about this amendment. He said he had wide-ranging consultations with interested parties. I pose the question: were the interested parties the civil servants who drew up this Bill or the people who will be out on the lakes fishing? I question very seriously the intention to introducing this amendment. I was not entirely happy with section 9 but we could have accepted it. However, if this amendment is put to a vote we will certainly not accept it because it changes the whole emphasis of the Bill as regards policing or hounding anglers on lakes and rivers.

No blame should be attached to officials. The Minister is responsible and any praise or blame should be attached to him only.

I withdraw that remark and attach the blame where it lies.

Since the debate on this Bill started I was under the impression that people were here to try to help us have a proper Bill at the end of the day. It is with rising impatience that I am listening to people who come in to this House inadequatley prepared to make contributions. First with regard to Deputy Gilmore's contribution, I do not know how he can say that if people who are anxious to contribute to the development and protection of fisheries join together and make a decision by 60 per cent of their members it would develop into a closed shop. I know that Deputy Gilmore must have a grasp of political science and political structures — and of political structures in place — which would regard 20 per cent of a special corps d'élite as adequate to rule a country or to run an organisation. I cannot understand how anybody comes in here and talks about 60 per cent of a voluntary organisation — not dragooned on ideological grounds——

Is this the best the Minister can do?

I cannot understand how that can in any way be related to a definition of a closed shop.

It is compulsion.

The anglers — not the Minister or anybody outside the angling scene — made the decision. You, a Cheann Comhairle, dealt with what I intend to speak about next. Deputy Taylor-Quinn launched an attack on officials which was cheap, mean and not a part of the traditions of this House, as you pointed out to her.

The Minister is confused.

I will ask for the record to be checked. Deputy Taylor-Quinn and Deputy McCormack attacked senior officials.

I referred to the hand of bureaucracy, I did not mention officials.

Deputy Taylor-Quinn said the same thing; I made a note of it.

I apologised.

Yes, and Deputy Taylor-Quinn should do the same.

The Minister is being dictatorial.

I would have thought the Fine Gael spokesperson would as she attempted to make a constructive contribution to this debate.

She is unavoidably absent.

I can see that Deputy Taylor-Quinn will not make a constructive contribution because it is not her usual approach in this House.

On a point of order——

In respect of the point of order, I wish to point out to you, Deputy, that this is Committee Stage of a Bill and that Members can rise as often as they wish to make their contribution. There are no reasons or grounds for disorder, making points of order or disputation. I can call the Deputy again if she wishes to make a contribution.

The Minister is being abusive and I ask him to apologise.

The Minister is in possession and will continue.

The Minister means every single word he said.

It is all bluster.

On Committee Stage the Deputy may speak as often as she wishes. Let there be no interruptions.

Withdraw the amendment.

Deputy Garland mentioned NARA with whom, he will be glad to hear, I had wide ranging consultations last Saturday at the national fly fishing championship. I talked to two of their senior officers when I launched the national competition at Lough Sheelin. I am also glad to be able to tell Deputy Garland, because he has an interest in that area, that Lough Sheelin is now clean and that they took 207 lbs of trout from it; I am sure that will warm his heart.

I am very pleased to hear it.

Deputy Gerry O'Sullivan said he opposed everything. I know that an international statesman made his reputation by saying niet but I expect, as the Bill develops, that Deputy O'Sullivan will see good points in it and that he will not continue to oppose for the sake of opposition. The second thing that worries me is that people are contributing to the debate without having read the Bill.


If Deputy McCormack will listen for a moment I will point something out to him.

I have been reading the Bill since 1987.

The Minister is a Johnny-come-lately.

The Minister is in possession and will be heard without interruptions.

Deputy McCormack talked about the Civil Service and he made the palinode verbi amende honorable as far as our officials are concerned. However, he spoke about never changing the decision. The fact is it is built into the Bill that, at the end of each five years, the decision can be changed. If he had read the Bill or the amendments he would not be making mistakes like that and wasting the time of this House. On the last day Deputy Gilmore had not read section 13——

I had read it.

However, in a very humorous and adroit way he got over that and went on to make his contributions. To come in here and attack something which is not in the Bill is not worthy of this House.

Deputies Taylor-Quinn and Gilmore rose.

I observed Deputy Gilmore first. Other Deputies will please restrain themselves; they will be called in due course.

It is very difficult to restrain ourselves; the Minister is inciting us.

Deputy Gilmore, on the amendment.

Unlike the Minister, I intend to speak to the amendment. The Minister has just made probably one of the most remarkable contributions in a long time to this House.

It was the truth.

The Minister lashed out in all directions and raised as much dust and diversion as he possibly could to distract attention from the amendment before us in order to avoid answering the points made. In his entire contribution, he did not make a single defence of the amendment. He made all kinds of changes in direction but he did not address himself to the amendment. Will he explain why he wants to take out of this section the provision that the societies could rescind their own decision?

They can at the end of five years.

There is a fundamental difference between a periodic review, which is what the five years is about, and a body having the right to rescind a decision. I cannot think of any organisation or State body, or indeed legislation, where a body could not rescind a decision which they have previously taken. I do not know of any legislation which removes from an organisation the right to rescind a decision. This is an unprecedented amendment. I do not know of any case where it existed before and it is disingenuous of the Minister to equate it with a periodic review, just as it is wrong for him to claim in the House that Members who have spent a long time on this legislation on Second Stage and after several days of Committee Stage are unprepared or have not read the Bill.

Let us deal with the Minister's preparation in regard to the Bill. With whom did he reach agreement that this amendment should be tabled? I asked him on the last occasion we were here about meetings which he had with interests to the rod licence dispute since the publication of this Bill, but he has not yet told us clearly what meetings he held, with whom and what was agreed with them. He should do that now so that we know the general agreement to which he referred.

This is an appalling amendment. If accepted, it will give rise to a situation whereby groups of people who do not own the rivers and lakes can come together and make a decision to exclude other citizens of the State from fishing in them. That is what it is about. Having made that decision they cannot go back on it. No matter how much they come to realise that they made a mistake, no matter how much controversy arises in an area, let us say in Galway or Mayo or wherever, if 60 per cent of the members of a society decide that they will exclude other people from fishing they cannot then go back on it.

Look at the practical implications of this. The Minister says people under 18 will not have to have a share certificate. Anybody who knows anything about the minor grades in GAA codes will know that we very often come across some very elderly minors indeed. I suspect we will be coming across some ageing 18 year olds on the banks of rivers and lakes under this legislation. As the temperature begins to rise, as resentment rises in local areas among people who are being harassed for share certificates, and a society may come to realise that they should perhaps change their minds under the amendment the Minister has now introduced they cannot do so. There is no reason why the Minister should have introduced this amendment except that he wants to lock in for all time control of the rivers and lakes of this State in the hands of small numbers of people under the pretext that it is some kind of democratic move.

I say with some regret that the Minister will go down in history as the man who handed over the rivers and lakes of this State and their control to small numbers of people who in time to come may abuse the powers they have been given under this legislation.

I will try to confine myself to the section we are discussing and particularly the amendment by which the Minister wants to delete the right of a society to change its mind within five years. The Minister gave an extraordinary reply to our last contributions. Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall to be cool on this occasion. I have great respect for the Minister and the work he has put in to try to solve this rod licence problem. Since he became Minister for the Marine he has made a genuine effort to speak to all parties. I would like him to spell out to whom exactly he spoke. At secondhand, I gather he spoke to many interested parties and I give the Minister credit for that.

I myself have been involved in this dispute right from the beginning. If anybody has any doubt he can look up my speech in the Seanad on 17 December 1987 when I warned of the danger of the introduction of this licence — I did not think then that we would still be talking about it three years later. I was proud of that contribution at the time. Unfortunately, many of the things I foresaw then, and worse, have happened.

To get back to the amendment, we can all make wrong decisions. If that amendment had been put into this Bill when it was introduced, it would mean that we could not have amended this Bill for five years. Here we are for the last three years trying to amend this Bill. Three years after the introduction of the Bill we are almost succeeding in getting amending legislation, but it is not now satisfactory legislation. The Minister's amendment is making the legislation even more unsatisfactory than the Bill which the Minister presented to us and which he said was agreed by the interested parties at the time. Now the interested parties are not in agreement because the Minister wants to put in an amendment. If he had got agreement with the interested parties could he not have left it so even though we were not satisfied? This is now making it worse. The societies to whom the Minister wants to give control would not have the authority to amend a decision for a period of five years. The whole principle of opposition to this Bill is related to the control of waters. This is adding to the amount of control the Minister has. I am sorry that on the last occasion I attributed blame in the wrong place. The Minister wants to keep the control. We have complained that in 15 sections of this Bill the Minister has certain powers. Now we are putting in a 16th one. It has gone beyond a joke and I would appeal to the Minister to be reasonable and withdraw his amendment and then we can consider the rest of this section.

In his response the Minister said that Members of this House had come in inadequately prepared. Let me remind the Minister that on 15 December 1987 the Labour Party opposed that notorious legislation because of the dangers in it. Here we are, four years later, with another Bill which we are opposing for very good reasons. I was not in the House in 1987 but I certainly had to appear for this Bill because I saw the flak that was generated outside by legislation that was hurried through the House at that time. Now, in 1991 I believe the Minister is making a mistake and there will be confrontation. Despite what the Minister said this is a closed shop. If 60 per cent of a group can deprive the people who are not in that group of the right to fish that is a closed shop despite what the Minister has said.

The five year review does not meet the standards I would put into the Bill. Every organisation, even the Minister's own, has an annual general meeting at which the whole activity of the year is looked at, rules and regulations are looked at and changes are made if necessary. Under this amendment this is being denied to the societies. I would have to reject out of hand the missiles the Minister fired here on the Opposition benches because we do not agree with him. We have very good and sound reasons for not agreeing with the Minister and he must know this. The Minister has had discussions with groups outside the House — he has not told us who they are. I can tell the Minister who I had discussions with. There are many people in Cork city at present who feel that this legislation will deprive them of the right to fish as they saw fit to do in previous years.

I have opposed sections as they came up. The Minister indicated at the start that this Bill was an amendment Bill to get rid of the rod licence. The share certificate is just a licence under a different name. I have very good reasons for opposing some sections as they come up. I do not want to see us in the ridiculous situation where people across in Britain are being told to come to fish in Ireland when we still, effectively, have a licence system. I am surprised that the Minister has come in here and put forward this amendment which proposes that a five year review will be adequate. A five year review will not be adequate and I will oppose this amendment. I will also oppose the section.

I am appalled at the Minister's response to the contributions made by Members on this side of the House on his amendment. I am sure the schoolboys in the public gallery will have recognised by now that the Minister is a former schoolmaster. May I suggest to the Minister that he has left the classroom——

Both of us have chalk on our hands.

That is correct but some of us have managed to leave the chalk back in the classroom while the Minister has brought it into this Chamber.

I only have dirt under my nails.

I ask the Deputy to refer to the point at issue, amendment No. 30 to section 9.

Perhaps the Minister has recognised by now that adopting an arrogant, lecturing and dictatorial attitude in this Chamber is totally unacceptable to the democratically elected Members of this House——

I did not start it.

——who have a democratic right to come in here and express the broader views of their constituents.

Not alone did the Minister lecture and abuse us when he was replying to our contributions but he did not in any way seek to explain further to the House or the public at large why he has put forward this amendment at this stage. In my original contribution I asked the Minister to say what has happened since the Bill was published which motivated him to table an amendment which proposes to rescind section 2; in other words, what motivated him to put forward an amendment which will prevent the societies from changing their minds in regard to a decision they made at an earlier date?

This Bill is supposed to be about co-operatives but the more we go into it and the more amendments the Minister tables the more we seem to be moving away from the principle of co-operatives and the reasons for them. What the Minister is proposing is not a co-operative system; it is very much a system which will be put in place by the Department and which will be under the thumb of the Department and the legislation passed by this House. Section 2 is not the type of section which should be included in any co-operative legislation. I suggest to the Minister that he should examine previous co-operative legislation to see what sections of it would in any way relate to most of the sections in this Bill. This section and the amendment put forward by the Minister, which will further tighten down the section and prevent ordinary people from fishing in our rivers and lakes, are unacceptable to us. This is an undemocratic and dictatorial move on the part of the Minister. I am surprised that the Minister has not seen the error of his ways and the inherent dangers in this section. It is vital that the Minister re-examines his amendment to section 9. While section 9 is unacceptable as it stands, amendments Nos. 30 and 31 are totally abhorrent to us and against the principles of co-operation and free fishing. We on this side of the House very much oppose the Minister's amendments.

I should like to ask Deputy Gilmore a simple question. Does he accept that at the end of the five year period the rule can be changed?

May I answer that?

Acting Chairman

Fan go fóill.

Does his reading of the Bill indicate to him that there will be an opportunity to rescind the rule at the end of five years? If the Deputy has not grasped that I cannot understand why. The fact is that at the end of five years it will be possible to change the rule and say that a share certificate is or is not necessary; 60 per cent of the members will make the decision, as they will have done first.

Deputy Gilmore invented the phrase "periodic review". The fact of the matter is that my amendment will exclude between year one and year five exactly what can happen each five years. I would be pleased to elucidate the Part of the Bill which may be causing ambiguity in that regard. So many people have said that the decision cannot be rescinded that there must be a misreading somewhere. I would be glad to clarify that point for the benefit of the House and specifically for the benefit of the spokespersons here today. There can be a rescission. Deputy Gilmore said they could not go back on their decision. Of course they can go back on it at the end of the five years in the normal way and by a 60 per cent majority.


Acting Chairman

An tAire.

Deputy Gilmore referred to the Gaelic Athletic Association——

An organisation dear to the Minister's heart.

——and said that there was occasionally a record of elderly minors. There are great stories in folklore about minors, etc. To be frank, I have more confidence in our youth and their integrity than Deputy Gilmore obviously has. I have successfully trained minor teams and I checked their birth certificates.

The Minister is only waiting for them to be 18 years so that they can buy a share certificate.

It is unfortunate that we are so rowdy in this House; the Minister cannot control us as he controlled them.

It is interesting that Deputy Gilmore should have mentioned the Gaelic Athletic Association because they do not allow changes of rules except every three years. He said he was not aware of any institution which did not allow change ad nutum. I should like the Deputy to reflect on that great association which he mentioned, even though sometimes their minors might be a little arthritic.

I also want to say that there is a kind of attempt to portray the co-operatives for which we are legislating as somehow exclusive. Membership will be open to all and every single angler who is interested in the development of fisheries.

What will happen if they do not want to join?

It was only at the insistence of the anglers that I put forward this amendment. I consulted them right across the board — those pro-licence and anti-licence — so that I could get as subtle legislation as possible on the Statute Book, realising, as Deputy McCormack said, that the original legislation had caused some trouble. There is absolutely no element of an extension of control by the Minister in this amendment.

Leave it out so.

I will come back to that point in a moment because the Deputy will be surprised where it came from. Deputy O'Sullivan said he had also spoken to people. I want to tell the Deputy that Cork made a big contribution to the development of this Bill. These included old age pensioners, juveniles and the unemployed. The input was not exclusively from there but I am glad to be able to say that they made a very strong contribution in that regard.

This change was put in at the request of the anglers because they felt it would be onerous to have another vote between the two election periods. This happens to be expensive as well, because it is a postal ballot and each individual member in democratic fashion is asked to vote. We are trying to calm passions that have undoubtedly been raised. They also said that having the ballot between the first and fifth years might induce disputation and they persuaded me that it would be better to leave the five year span. There are rescission possibilities at the end of the five years and I cannot understand how that was misunderstood.

Which anglers?

The Minister is in a very didactic mood this morning——

I like that word, it is a Greek word.

——and I am anxious to learn. The first thing I would like to learn is where in the Bill it refers to the decision being rescinded after five years?

At the end of five years dual elections take place, one for the regional board and the other for the board of management. There is potential in that new situation to make the other decision which is to last five years.

With respect, it is not we on this side of the House who do not understand the Bill. The Minister is having difficulty understanding his own Bill because the five years he is referring to is the five year intervals for the election of the regional boards which will also coincidentally be the period for the election of the board or officers of the society. The election of the board and officers of the society is different from the decision to rescind the 60 per cent rule, because the decision to rescind the 60 per cent rule will not be made by the board or officers of the society. It is made by ballot of the entire membership.

Held by the boards of management, of course.

No. It says:

Where a society has so decided by vote of 60 per cent. of its ordinary members eligible to vote and voting, a person shall not be entitled to angle for trout or coarse fish in the area of that society unless he is——

and then it goes on to give the exemptions.

I presume the Minister is referring to section 14. This section provides for the election of members for the regional boards and it also refers to the fact that the management committees of the society would be elected at the same intervals as the regional boards. Nowhere does it state that the election of a new board or a new executive committee for the society will result in any right to rescind a decision taken by the entire membership. The Minister lacks understanding of his own Bill. There is nothing in the Bill which allows the decision to be rescinded after five years. The Minister should clear that up. There is no connection in this Bill between the election of the officers of this society and a decision to rescind or change rules.

The Minister evaded the issues. He stated clearly that angling groups and anglers requested this amendment to the Bill. Will he say what group of anglers recommended this amendment?

The anti-rod licence people, among others.

They asked the Minister to amend the Bill to take from the societies the power to rescind one of their decisions?

When I had discussions on the Bill with them they indicated that they regarded the ballot in between the five year period as unnecessary, superfluous, onerous and expensive.

That is an extraordinary turn about by the anti-rod licence group. In my discussions with them as Fine Gael spokesperson for the Marine that would not have reflected their view. What the Minister is saying amazes me.

It is true.

Regardless of their view, and the Minister's view, I strongly hold that this amendment is undemocratic and that it is a further restriction in the legislation and should not be commended to the House. I ask the Minister to re-examine it and withdraw the amendment.

The Minister keeps saying that he is in agreement with the anglers, that he consulted the anglers and so on. He is quite entitled to ignore recommendations but he should come into the House and say that. That would be honourable and correct. We do not have to do what the anglers wish. We are not at the beck and call of outside interest groups. We should listen to them carefully and take their ideas on board if we can, but we are not obliged to take them on board. That is our function as democrats.

The Minister implies ad nauseam that all the angling associations agree with everything in this Bill and he keeps trying to belittle the opposition to this Bill by saying we are being irresponsible and have not read the Bill. That is not so. The Minister referred to the anti-rod licence people. That is a delightfully vague expression. Who does it include? We have the Minister Angling Council, the National Anglers Representative Association and various groups of anglers of varying importance. The National Anglers Representative Association is one of the more important angling groups here. Will the Minister say clearly what this group had to say to him about this proposal? If he is honest, he will say they opposed this amendment. The Minister should have the honesty to say that.

The Minister owes Opposition Members an apology. The Minister strongly condemned Opposition Deputies about the five year proposal and said we did not read the Bill. I carefully reread the Bill a number of times and the five year period was not mentioned in the Bill in the context to which the Minister referred. The Minister has made a gaff on this issue. The five years proposal does not even enter into the matter. The Minister said it would be costly to have this rule rescinded during the period due to the postal ballot. It is not a postal ballot, it is a secret ballot. Most of those co-operatives will meet perhaps once a month or once a fortnight during the season and the only expense would be in notifying people of the venue and time of the meeting to vote on whether to rescind a decision.

I will refer back to the closed shop, because what we are talking about here is a group of people telling other people that due to a decision of 60 per cent of their membership, they are being denied the right to fish a particular stretch of river or lake.

The reason we opposed that Bill from the first day was that we felt it was bad legislation and the Minister should have recognised this. Subsequent events have proved us to be correct. We are now going to put worse legislation in place and I suggest, before there is another débacle, that the Minister should either withdraw or change the Bill. I and the Labour Party will oppose this section tooth and nail. I must say that the Minister is wrong in trying to bulldoze it through the House this morning. In the process he has ridiculed some of the Members which is very unfair.

I can, quite frankly, understand the Minister's anger, impatience and annoyance. I would like to quote amendment No. 39 for those Deputies who have a problem with this provision relating to the five-year review and question whether the society will be able to rescind their own decision. The amendment reads:

A decision of a society under section 9 of this Act shall have effect until the next election of its management committee and shall then cease unless at a ballot for the purposes of that section it is decided in accordance with subsection (1) of that section that the provisions of that subsection shall continue in force.

The language used is complicated but the message is very clear and I suggest that those Deputies who have a problem with this provision should read that amendment carefully.

This issue has torn the heart out of the nation over a lengthy period. I share a constituency with Deputy Garland who has been closely involved in this issue but many of us have strong connections with parts of the country where this is a live issue. There have been tortuous consultations over a lengthy period and, quite frankly, as I said, I can understand the reason the Minister is a little bit impatient with those who want to dig up issues which have already been dealt with.

I was at Dublin Airport during the weekend where, interestingly enough, I saw a large group of German holidaymakers arriving with their fishing gear. I could not but feel relieved that things were calm given that this has been a very contenious issue. Tortuous consultations and talks about talks have taken place and I feel that Members on all sides of the House have a responsibility to give the legislation a chance. If Members listen to the Minister and read the Bill carefully they will see that there are inbuilt safeguards.

There is an old proverb "there isn't any point in having a dog and barking oneself". "Didactic" was the word used by Deputy Gilmore and I am glad that I have another person who used to have chalk in his hair sitting behind me to explain quite clearly what the position will be under section 11 to Deputy Gilmore who seems to have a difficulty with regard to the five year review.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 56.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Charles J.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.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'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.


  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • FitzGerald, Garret.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, Pat.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Gallagher and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Flanagan and Boylan.
Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 5, subsection (3), line 18, to delete "or rescinding".

Amendment agreed to.
Question: "That section 9, as amended, stand part of the Bill" put and declared carried.

Amendment No. 32 is in the name of Deputy Garland. Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 are alternatives. I suggest that we discuss together amendments Nos. 32, 33 and 34. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 5, lines 30 to 34, to delete subsection (2), and substitute the following:

"(2) The Minister may, 3 years after the enactment of this Act and at 3 year intervals thereafter increase the fees as specified under subsection (1) of this section without consultation of a society providing that the amount of such increase shall not exceed the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.".

In so far as we have to have this Bill and annual certificates, we can probably agree that the amounts provided for in the Bill are reasonable and certainly not excessive. We must have some machinery in place to deal with the matter in the future. Subsection (2), which deals with the possible increase in the cost of annual certificates, gives sole power to the Minister to increase or otherwise alter the price of certificates. The Minister's amendment No. 34 improves the position somewhat in that it requires the consent of the majority of societies.

The purpose of my amendment is to introduce a sense of fairness and equity and to try to cut out bureaucracy. In so far as people have to pay for these certificates, the amendment is reasonable and would not require consultation with the societies because they would agree that the cost of living index would be a fair measure of assessment. It would simplify matters.

Amendment No. 33 is in my name. This section sets out how much the share certificates will cost. An annual certificate will cost £12, a 21-day certificate £5 and a three-day certificate £3. These share certificates are the rod licence under another name. Admittedly the price of the share certificate is somewhat less than that of the rod licence which caused so much fuss.

Subsection (2) gives the Minister the right to alter the price of the share certificates. We know that money has been behind this whole business since 1987, when the original rod licence legislation was introduced. The Government had cut back on the money available to the regional fisheries boards for the development of inland fisheries. To make up the loss they introduced the idea of a rod licence. That did not run, so the Government have found a new means of raising money for inland fisheries by shifting the onus to the anglers and angling clubs, allowing them to set up co-operatives and requiring them to charge for share certificates which must be obtained by anyone wishing to fish on the rivers and lakes. To sweeten the pill the cost of the share certificate will be pitched at £12 a year for a start. Everybody will say it is not too bad since it is less than the cost of the rod licence. The sting comes in subsection (2) where the Minister takes the right to increase the price of the share certificate. I agree with Deputy Garland that the Minister's amendment improves the position in that he will only be able to do so with the consent of a majority of the societies.

The Minister has apparently persuaded some angling interests of the merits of this Bill, which will deprive the individual citizen of the right to free fishing, the core of the rod licence dispute. It is conceivable that he will be able to persuade the societies of the merits of increasing the price of the share certificate especially when they will be squealing for money and the clubs themselves through corporate membership can offset the charge. They will not have to pay it because they will be able to offset it against outlay on works of public benefit under section 8. The societies will, by and large, be controlled by the corporate members. That is quite clearly what will happen.


It is not rubbish. The corporate members such as the angling clubs will not have to pay the increased price for share certificates because they will be able to offset it. It will be passed on to the individual angler. We have a vehicle whereby the Minister in years to come will be able to drive up the price of the share certificate. He will get the agreement of the societies because the corporate members of those societies will not have to pay it. The individual angler is the person who will pay the higher cost. The £12 annual fee will last for a very short time until the pain of the introduction of the idea has been got over. Then the Minister and the societies will be able to meet again in Portlaoise and decide to put up the price of the share certificates. This is a recipe whereby anglers will end up paying more for share certificates than they ever paid for the rod licence. That is the bottom line.

Regardless of the manner in which the Minister dresses up this section in regard to share certificates — whether it be a 21 day certificate or a three-day certificate — basically what is entailed here is a camouflaged rod licence; at the end of the day that is the nitty gritty. No matter how we view it, or how it is done, it involves a charge on fishing. Of course, the Minister will totally disagree with me; nevertheless he still retains power to increase share certificates as he sees fit, admittedly after consultation with other groups.

People have realised the cost of inland fisheries, that a certain amount of money must be paid for their protection and development and were prepared to do so. The Minister should have viewed the matter in that light and stipulated that a voluntary contribution was the way forward. Fishing groups nationwide know in their hearts and souls that they must contribute to the protection and development of our inland fisheries. It is my belief they were willing to contribute thereto voluntarily having lived through the experiences since 1987 when people were up in arms about compulsion or coercion with regard to payment. I would advocate that the Minister re-examine the overall position with regard to charges.

This amendment, which endeavours to relieve the Minister of some of his power, is a good one. My opposition to the proposition was that angling clubs or anglers individually would have been willing to contribute voluntarily so that this compulsion or coercion will lead to antagonism on the part of angling clubs generally.

Like others, I am opposed to the Minister's amendment. In this section there has been no consideration of the voluntary effort of anglers and/or angling clubs. We must acknowledge that there are and have been major contributions on the part of anglers and angling clubs in the work they undertake in our lakes and rivers.

The provisions of this section are specific with regard to the price of the share certificate, including that pertaining to a group certificate or that held by an angling club. There is no mention of any consideration being given to the contribution of individual anglers or their work. These share certificates will be subject to review or adjustment. I contend that anglers nationwide will be fearful of the inherent danger in this section, which is that a share certificate could be increased dramatically in the future.

In passing legislation in this House one cannot deal with the present only; we must give some consideration to circumstances that may prevail in the future. For example, we must anticipate what will be the circumstances prevailing in, say, ten or 20 years. The provisions of this section as drafted do envisage circumstances developing in which a share certificate could be increased so enormously, it would become a matter simply for the exclusive few, which would be contrary to the tradition of fishing patterns here. That trend has developed in England and Scotland where fishing has become a pasttime of the wealthy sectors of their societies but it would be unfortunate were that pattern to develop here. The provisions of this section could be instrumental in the development of an exclusive class of fishing here; there is that inherent danger.

Therefore I oppose the amendment.

As he said, Deputy Garland's amendment was tabled in an effort to introduce fairness and equity into the provisions of this section, which I fully accept.

The consumer price index was what we discussed originally, very extensively in my Department with regard to this section. The point made by a number of contributors was that, when something is impaled as it were, in a statute, one must follow it to the nth degree. As members of my staff, experienced in finance, indicated, one is then getting into fractions. If one wanted to be punctilious about it, one might charge, say, .88 of a penny if one adhered strictly to the consumer price index.

I thought that my amendment, as tabled, would commend general support. It is totally democratic in that if a majority of societies decide that the amount to be determined should be the approximate consumer price index figure, then that is what it will be or, if they decide there should be no increase at all, then there will not be any increase. Equally, if they decide on some other figure, that will be the determinant. I appreciate Deputy Garland's amendment but, substantively, my amendment covers what he is endeavouring to do.

Deputy Gilmore mentioned corporate members. Once more I should like to place on the record of the House that a corporate member, say, of an hotel, a magnate, with a lot of money, and a conscience — of course conscience kept titillated by Deputy Garland and his party — who lives in a certain area and decides to invest, say, £1,000, £2,000, or whatever, will have one vote or the institution concerned will have one vote. It would be my hope that such people in the various regions — realising the gift we have in our lakes and rivers — would be convinced that they should contribute to their development. It does not give them any rights in accordance with the size of their wallets but, as happens nowadays, in some countries to a greater extent than in ours, people who have amassed wealth should consider investing money for the development and protection of fisheries and for the benefit of the community in general.

With regard to angling clubs, again from the manner in which Deputy Gilmore spoke, one would think he was talking about the Freemasons. These people are ordinary anglers who decide to form a co-operative society for the specific purposes I have mentioned continuously, that is, the protection and development of fisheries in their regions. A person will only have one vote whether or not he be a member of an angling club.

The other point I want to make is germane to the remarks made by Deputy Taylor-Quinn when she said there was no recognition of the work undertaken by clubs; au contraire, it is quite clear in section 8 that there is such recognition. From the very beginning of our discussions the point was made strongly to me that the actual voluntary work undertaken and investment on the part of angling clubs had not been appreciated within the community generally and, specifically, by the Department of the Marine, formerly the Department of Fisheries. It was with a view to that that section 8 was constructed as it is ab initio that point was made to me time and again by the people who are committed to angling.

Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned that the anglers were quite prepared to pay. I agree with him and I took them at their word. They came and made that case to me. They said it was a travesty of their position to state that the reason they were opposed to the rod licence was that they did not want to contribute to their own sport. I accepted their contention. The whole system is based on voluntary subscriptions which Deputy O'Sullivan said is desirable and I agree with him. There is no compulsion on anyone to join. In a case where a particular society decide there is no requirement to have a certificate to fish then the point made by Deputy O'Sullivan is covered. Deputy O'Sullivan used an emotive word, "coercion". There is no element whatsoever of coercion in it.

I would like to reply briefly to the Minister. With respect he has not read the small print in my amendment because he referred to the cumbersome nature of the financial figures which may result from applying the cost of living index to what are round sum amounts of £12 and so forth. If that were to be the effect of my amendment it would be flawed in that minor way. If the Minister would take the trouble to read my amendment again he would see that it seeks to provide that the amount of such increase shall not exceed the rate of inflation as measured by the consumer price index. If we take the £12 licence and apply to it the cost of living index over three years the cost of the licence would be £13.06 and, clearly, that would be a ludicrous amount to ask people to pay. If my amendment is accepted the amount presumably will be fixed at £13. I could have tabled a lengthy and detailed amendment, which I did consider, to deal with this rounding down following the application of the consumer price index to the existing licences but I decided it was too cumbersome. I expected that common sense would prevail and that a round figure would be arrived at which would be slightly less than the consumer price index. I ask the Minister to acknowledge that his argument in that respect is flawed.

I accept what the Deputy said, that the amount of such a fee shall not exceed the rate of inflation or the consumer price index in the amendment. My proposal has the additional advantage in that it is left to the societies. Much of the criticism directed against the contents of the Bill was directed against the Minister having power and Deputy Garland's amendment seems to be anxious to give me this power but I prefer to leave it to the societies.

Is the Deputy pressing his amendment?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move:

In page 5, lines 30 to 34, to delete subsection (2).

Question: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 5, subsection (2), line 30, after "made" to insert "with the consent of a majority of the societies and".

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Is section 10, as amended, agreed to?

Question: "That section 10, as amended, stand part of the Bill" put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 5, subsection (3), line 39, after "Ireland", to insert "or is a citizen of Ireland".

This is a short amendment. The only people who are entitled to vote in a society are members who are ordinarily resident in Ireland. What is the position of Irish emigrants who come back on holidays, want to fish, join a society, take up membership and get a share certificate? Those people would be denied the right to vote under the provisions of the Bill. Deputy O'Sullivan had a Private Members' Bill debated in the House recently dealing with the question of giving voting rights generally to emigrants but under the scope of this Bill that would be impossible. There are specific reasons why citizens who are not ordinarily resident in the country should have the right to vote in these cases. Emigrants who take out share certificates and return on holidays should have a say in how these societies are run. The purpose of this amendment is to extend the voting right within societies not just to people who are resident here but to citizens generally. If they hold a share certificate they should have the right to vote.

If the Minister accepted the amendment it would be a good gesture on his part. People who visit this country regularly and spend good money here should have the right to vote. I support the amendment.

I support Deputy Gilmore's amendment. This matter was discussed in consultation with the various angling groups. In particular consideration should be given to Irish people who were forced to emigrate because of economic circumstances and find employment elsewhere. In many instances these people support their less fortunate families at home. When they return on holidays everything possible should be done to make their stay pleasant. This amendment takes that into consideration. Perhaps Deputy Gilmore will be able to beef up this amendment on Report Stage. There are 20 million people around the world entitled to Irish citizenship and if they came here on holiday the economic benefits would be dramatic.

There are 45 million such people in the United States.

They would not all be fishermen.

It is highly unlikely that they would all be fishermen but there is that little angle which, perhaps, the Deputy might consider on Report Stage. However, I support the basic thrust of the amendment.

My proposal is that individuals who reside in Ireland, north, south, east or west, shall be entitled to purchase a share certificate and to vote for the committees of management and also for positions on the regional boards. I understand the thinking behind the amendment. I know at one stage there was a move to exclude people from the Six Counties, which I am sure, a Cheann Comhairle, you will agree was a partitionist approach, which I reject. I am not prepared to go any further than that. With regard to the position of emigrants — I have a personal sympathy with them because unlike many Members of this House I had to emigrate; in fact out of our family of seven, five had to emigrate at one stage or another, so as a result I have always had a special interest in emigrants — after due consideration we came to the decision that in the circumstances we would confine membership and voting to people who were ordinarily resident in Ireland, North and South. This does not exclude people from membership, including non-ethnic tourists who come here to fish, and from holding a share certificate where it has been democratically decided that they should.

I wish to clarify a point. Little more than a week ago all people were registered on the census form. Even if they were not ordinarily resident in the State as they have been listed on our census forms could they now prove they were entitled to a vote?

In the census, the head of the house — an emotive word and I would want to be careful — whoever that may be, registers everybody staying in that house on that specific night. If we had a visit from the Emperor of Japan on that night, he would be registered, although he is not ordinarily resident in Ireland——

Similarly, visitors were part of the count of the people in Ireland and will be used for statistical purposes. I wonder if that is not a little anomalous. If I could prove that I, a visitor, was here on that night and was listed as an Irish person that night, would I be eligible to vote?

The Deputy answered her question in the course of what she said. The information will be used for statistical purposes but we are specifically dealing with membership and voting rights in the co-operatives.

I am beginning to think that after this legislation is passed a person going to fish will have to bring his briefcase to carry all the documents he will need, proof of share certificate, birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, etc. It looks as if we are not going anywhere with this amendment and I would now like to have it formally put.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 5, subsection (4) (a), lines 41 to 43, to delete "at the same time as the first election of the society's management committee and the election of the regional board of the region of which the society's area forms part." and substitute "at the first annual general meeting of the society's management committee.".

This amendment deals with the balloting arrangements for elections which will take place for the purposes of meeting the provisions of section 9 of the Bill. I would remind Members that section 9 is crucial to the Bill because it deals with whether the society will decide to have an annual share certificate. Obviously adequate debate should take place within the society to ensure that after a full debate a democratic decision will be reached. Let us look at the actual wording of the section, subsection (4) (a) states:

The first ballot for the purpose of section 9 of this Act shall be held at the same time as the first election of the society's management committee and the election of the regional board of the region of which the society's area forms part.

In my view that does not give sufficient time for debate, hence my amendment which seeks instead to substitute "at the first annual general meeting of the society's management committee." We feel the best time to have the ballot is at the first annual general meeting of the society's management committee. While this is a technical matter, nevertheless it is an important point and I hope the Minister will respond positively to it.

We are now discussing amendments Nos. 35 to 41 to section 11. This section outlines the arrangements which are to apply in respect of ballots to determine whether possession of a share certificate is required to fish for trout or coarse fish in any society's area and is to be confined to the members as outlined in our discussion on the last amendment. Voting is by secret ballot and only those normally resident in Ireland may vote. The first such ballot is to be held at the same time as the first election of the society's management committee and the next election of the regional fisheries board, which is due in December 1991. Ordinary members with current share certificates are to be entitled to vote. We are now dealing with amendment No. 36. However, amendment No. 37 is relevant. The Bill provides that to be eligible to vote in any subsequent ballot on this issue, members will be required to have been in continued membership of the society since the previous ballot. That requirement is a bit stringent and, as Deputies may know. I have tabled an amendment, No. 38, that this requirement be altered to the current year and any two other years in the interregnum of the five year period. Any subsequent ballot on this issue is to be held at the same time as the management committee elections, which is a reasonable management and administrative arrangement. In his amendment, Deputy Garland is indicating that this should take place at the annual general meeting.

Again this was the subject of widespread discussion when I was preparing this Bill. Apart from other considerations, the idea of an annual general meeting as distinct from a ballot might be difficult if there is the demand for membership of the societies which I expect. It would not be possible to have an annual general meeting unless we were to hold it on, for instance, the Hill of Tara — and that would only be for the Leinster region — because I expect there will be huge numbers. The idea is to have a register of members and that would be available throughout the country. There would be a straight, open, democratic ballot and people would not have to indicate to anybody for whom they were voting. I think that is a very fair way of dealing with the matter.

I am disappointed with the Minister's response that he does not consider my amendment reasonable. However, under the circumstances I will not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 36a in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 37, 39 and 40 are related. Amendment No. 41 is an alternative to No. 40 and amendments Nos. 42 and 43 are consequential on amendment No. 39. It is proposed, therefore, that we take amendments Nos. 36a, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43 together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 36a:

In page 6, subsection (4) (b), line 2, after "society" to insert "on the date specified in the rules of the society".

The changes proposed here are mainly drafting changes flowing from my decision to delete subsection (7) and provide for ballots to be held at five yearly intervals. There was some difficulty in understanding this earlier. These ballots would be held at the same time as the regional board elections. It has been pointed out to me that the requirement under the existing subsection (5) to have held a certificate effectively for five years would be too onerous and therefore I am altering this requirement to the current year and any other two years in the interregnum, that is in the five year period. I am proposing amendments Nos. 36a and 37a to enable a cut-off date to be decided in relation to eligibility to vote in these ballots: 31 October has been suggested. This should facilitate the societies when making arrangements to hold ballots, and of course it is important that that should be so.

I have a problem with subsection (5) of this section. It proposes that to be entitled to vote in any subsequent ballot a person must be the holder of a current annual certificate of the society and/or be deemed to be the holder of such certificate for each year since the previous ballot. This needs to be clarified because a problem could arise here with junior anglers on coming of age. It would also discourage new members. I would ask the Minister to consider that. I would also refer to subsection (7) which is the subject of my amendment No. 41. This subsection provides that if the Minister at his discretion so permits no other ballot may be held in the second or third year between the election and such date as may be fixed for that purpose. It seems that this matter is arbitrary and should be deleted.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 6, subsection (4) (b), line 2, to delete "one vote" and substitute "vote in that ballot".

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 37a in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 38 and 45 are related. It is proposed, therefore, that amendments Nos. 37a, 38 and 45 be taken together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 37a:

In page 6, subsection (5), line 4, after "society" to insert "on the date specified in the rules of the society".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 6, subsection (5), line 5, to delete "each year" and substitute "any two other years".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following subsections:

"(6) A decision of a society under section 9 of this Act shall have effect until the next election of its management committee and shall then cease unless at a ballot for the purposes of that section it is decided in accordance with subsection (1) of that section that the provisions of that subsection shall continue in force.

(7) A ballot for the purposes of subsection (6)* of this section or, if for the time being no decision is in force under section 9, a ballot for the purposes of subsection (1) of that section shall be held at the same time as an election of the society's management committee.

(8) An ordinary member, whether he holds one or more than one current annual share certificate, shall be entitled to one vote only n any ballot.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 6, lines 7 to 12, to delete subsections (6) and (7).

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 41 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 11, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

On a point of order, the Minister has not responded to my comments on amendment No. 41 to section 11. We cannot agree the section until the Minister responds to my amendment.

Acting Chairman

The Minister can deal with those remarks under the section if he so wishes. Is section 11 agreed?

On a point of order, I put down an amendment, No. 41, and I am not withdrawing it until such time as the Minister replies to it.

Acting Chairman

The amendment has been discussed with amendment No. 36a. It cannot be moved as we agreed when we set out to discuss section 11.

Section 11, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 6, subsection (1), line 13, before "section 9" to insert "a decision under".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 6, subsection (3), line 24, before "section 9" to insert "a decision under".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 6, subsection (3), line 31, before "within" to insert "at the office of the regional board".

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 12, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I want to make a couple of observations on this section which, perhaps, the Minister will clarify. It is a rather strange section as, for example, subsection (1) proposes to allocate functions to every authorised officer of a regional board. If a society decide by 60 per cent that everybody must have a share certificate, under this section it now becomes the function of every authorised officer of a regional board to enforce that provision. I have two questions in that regard. Where does that leave the boards in relation to directing their own staff and officers? As I understand it, the position at the moment is that the various functions under, say, the 1980 Act are given to the board per se and it is a matter for the board to decide how they discharge those or what instructions or functions they give to their own officers to discharge them. Secondly — and I do not know whether the Minister has considered this — is it in order for legislation to give specific functions to identifiable officers of the regional boards? I would have thought that the functions of officers of regional boards would be a matter for their terms of employment with the board and that, in turn, would be a matter for negotiation between those officers, their trade unions and the boards concerned. I am somewhat concerned that specific functions — which may be very controversial — are being assigned in the legislation to identifiable officers of regional boards. I raise that point as it may give rise to difficulties and I should like to hear the Minister's observations in that regard.

Representations have been made to me in regard to a fishery officer carrying out instructions at the behest of the fishery board, but also, according to the legislation, of a particular group who could direct a fishery officer to carry out certain duties. This raises the whole question of who controls the fishery officer or the fishery board. I presume that the fishery board will be instructed by the co-operative movement to tell a person to do a certain duty. However, that is a fairly hefty responsibility because it could possibly mean prosecution at some stage. Is that the right course to adopt? I will be anxious to hear the Minister clarify the position because it is a matter of serious concern to many people, particularly those in the fishery boards throughout the country, who are now in the invidious position of having to carry out instructions from people with whom they were probably in confrontation in the recent past. The position needs to be clarified since so many people made their views known on this matter.

This is a particularly interesting section in relation to the enforcement of the regulation of fishing and the powers vested in fishery officers to enforce it. Subsection (5) specifically states that it shall be a good defence to prove that he had the rod and line in his possession as a manufacturer or seller thereof and not for use.

It will increase the sale of fishing rods.

Yes, indeed. One has to stretch one's imagination to visualise a manufacturer of fishing rods on the shoreline of the Corrib or, indeed, at any lake right across the country, selling fishing rods. To give an example, if I am coming back from the shores of Lough Derg, walking through the fields in possession of a fishing line and rod——

That makes a lovely picture.

If I meet a fishery officer who accosts me and asks me to produce my share certificate which I am not able to produce then — or seven days later — and I am subsequently pursued to the courts, may I offer as a defence that I had a fishing line and rod in my possession at Lough Derg attempting to meet a fisherman or fisherwoman who would be interested in purchasing my equipment? Would the prosecution be dropped because of that defence? The legal eagles will have some amusement with this section and many an interesting case will be pursued because of it.

An officer who would approach a Deputy would, I presume, be told the truth.

Fishermen do not tell the truth.

Fishermen are entitled to tell lies about the size of the fish, particularly about the one that got away, because it cannot be verified. Anything I would say here would not help a judge in future or indeed a senior or junior counsel to come to a conclusion, because only what is in the Act will count. It would be an acceptable defence to say that you are trying to sell a fishing rod on the shores of Lough Derg, a lake which I know very well. I would advise the purchaser to buy the rod and line and to start fishing in Lough Derg, all round the Clare Coast, Tipperary and on to South Galway. The defence is clearly outlined in the Bill and I do not expect any great difficulty in that regard. I may be wrong in the derivation of the word "accost" but I think originally it meant "to rib".

That was not the intention.

The word feeds my imagination.

I agree with Deputy Taylor-Quinn because it seems to be a daft subsection. I would have thought that a matter like that could be left to the courts. I wonder is this some kind of agreement which the Minister has made with what he describes as anti-rod licence people. Perhaps this would be the standard defence used by anglers to get over this. It might become a standing joke. A man might say he was trying to sell his fishing rod when an inspector came along. This could get great mileage in the world press. It is really very amusing when one thinks of it. I concede that there might be the odd angler who would be there with the intention of selling his fishing rod.

I am sure the justices have heard peculiar defences in their time and, by times, these defences are genuine, and I have little doubt that the district justice involved would decide on the facts of the case. Putting this subclause into this legislation is only putting ideas into people's minds. Some clever, crafty solicitor defending a client who is obviously guilty of the offence will get hold of this. He will suggest to his client that maybe he was down there trying to sell the fishing rod and the client will say that maybe he was, that if somebody had offered him £50 he might have sold his fishing rod and that, of course, he was there trying to sell it. This is ridiculous and as the Minister does not seem to be making any real effort to defend it, I want to put him on notice that I intend to put down an amendment to this effect on Report Stage.

Before I sit down I would like to refer to a slight problem I have with subsection (3). In line 25 of subsection (3) there is reference to someone in possession of a rod and line capable of being used for that purpose at a fishing place. That is not wide enough and should be amended to read "at or in the vicinity of a fishing place". I intend putting down an amendment on Report Stage in respect of that also.

I think, perhaps, we are devoting too much time to this idea of complication and so on. Just because a person has a rod or line he should not be immediately presumed to be committing an offence. This is inserted to make it easier for people like that to say they are trading, which they do — I saw them last week turning up at places where fishermen were gathered to try to sell their goods, and they are entitled to do that. I would not, therefore, be inclined to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is simply a defence in a certain circumstance.

It is important to remember that the officers of the regional fisheries boards have statutory obligations independent of this legislation. When the decision to have or not to have a share certificate is taken and published in Iris Oifigiúil, it is officially the law and the officers will be requested by the fishery societies to see to it that the law is carried out. It is a very simple operation. We consulted the Attorney General about it and he indicated that it was in accordance with normal legal statute.

I have just one question on subsection (5) since it has given rise to a lot of speculation. Must a person in possession of a rod and line be caught in the act of fishing in order for a prosecution to be succesful?

Subsection (3) answers that question.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 13 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 7, subsection (1), line 8, to delete "each of the two years preceding the election year" and substitute "any two other years since the previous election".

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 14, as amended, stand part of the Bill".

There is one question which has arisen in relation to section 14 and it relates to some of the other sections as well, that is, the position of former life members of the Inland Fisheries Trust. The question is twofold. First, will they continue to have a vote? Second, will it be necessary for them to purchase share certificates? That is not clear from what has been said so far and I would like to have it clarified.

I, as a life member of the Inland Fisheries Trust, would also like to make that point.

There is one other point I would like to make in connection with section 14 and that is in regard to elections to the regional fisheries boards. The length of time people remain on the board is not long enough; the term should be one year bringing it up to 1992. Perhaps the Minister could look at this.

Anent the point made about the former members of the trust, I presume the Deputy is talking about people who made a payment, which was substantial at the time, for life membership of the trust?

I will have a look at that on Report Stage.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 7, to delete lines 25 to 28 and substitute the following:

"a fine not exceeding ten times the fee for an annual share certificate in force at the time of the commission of the offence.".

Again, in true democratic fashion, I listened carefully to what people had to say on Second Stage. This amendment is intended to bring the section into line with the intent of the rest of the Bill which, as Deputy O'Sullivan indicated, was a specific intent from the word go.

I want to explain why the sum of £1,000 was included in the original Bill. It was put in on legal advice and was drafted as a standard kind of formulation, indicating that a prosecution could be initiated at District Court level only. It was purely a technical, legal thing. With the consent of the Attorney General I decided to revert to the alternative wording which I have proposed in my amendment. This was done in the spirit of the negotiations which we held over the long arduous months when we were trying to put this Bill together.

I am glad that the Minister has seen the wisdom of deleting both the fine of £1,000 and the fine not exceeding less than ten times the fee for an annual share certificate in existence at the time of the commission of the offence. I think all Members on this side of the House strongly opposed this section on Second Stage. We were opposed to the exorbitance of the fine and the intolerable penalty it would put on ordinary people who fish. I welcome the Minister's amendment which proposes that a fine shall not exceed ten times the fee for an annual share certificate. This means that a very nominal fine may be imposed on people — it may be even less than the fee for an annual share certificate. This is a move in the right direction. I am glad that the Minister has had the wisdom to put forward this amendment as the other fine was totally unacceptable.

I think the Minister was also taken aback at the fine of £1,000 in the Bill.

The Deputy has a good memory.

I have, indeed. I think this outlandish fine caught us all unawares at that time. I am glad the Minister has decided to reduce this fine to a reasonable level. However, no matter what way the figures are adjusted, we are still opposed to the Bill.

While this amendment is obviously an improvement on the original section, nevertheless the level of the fine is extremely draconian and I ask the Minister to give it some further considertion. If he does not put down an amendment on Report Stage in regard to this matter I will do so.

As the House will have observed, it is a maximum fine. Deputy Garland said that the fine is draconian. I can give the Deputy, confidentially and privately, a list of the Acts which Draco actually perpetrated on humanity. He might change his views on what is draconian after that.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 15, as amended, agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 47, 48, 50, 54 and 56 are related. I suggest that amendments Nos. 47, 48, 50, 54 and 56 be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 7, subsection (1), line 30, to delete "a fee of £12" and substitute "the licence duty provided therefor in Part I of the Fourth Schedule to the Principal Act (as inserted by the Schedule to this Act)".

These amendments extend the compensatory provisions applicable to the holders of salmon rather than ordinary licences in 1990 to persons who held composite licences in that year and makes further provision for compensatory measures for persons who take out such licences in 1991. In other words, the amendments are in relief of salmon anglers. The latter amendment arises solely from the fact that this Bill was not passed before the end of 1990. The other amendments are purely drafting amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 7, subsection (3), lines 42 and 43, to delete "a fee of £8" and substitute "the licence duty provided therefor in Part I of the said Fourth Schedule".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 7, subsection (3), line 44, to delete "(juvenile licence)" and substitute "juvenile licence".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 7, subsection (4), line 46, to delete "a fee of £3" and substitute "the licence duty provided therefor in Part I of the said Fourth Schedule".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 7, subsection (5), line 47, after "licence" to insert "or a composite freshwater angling ordinary licence".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 8, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following subsections:

"(6) The holder of a salmon rod (annual) ordinary licence or a composite freshwater angling ordinary licence for the years 1990 and 1991 who is issued with a licence free of charge under subsection (5) for the year 1991 shall, if the Minister in his discretion so prescribes, be refunded the duty paid for the former licence for 1991, subject to such conditions as he may prescribe.

(7) The holder of a salmon rod (annual) ordinary licence or a composite freshwater angling ordinary licence for the year 1991, but not for the previous year, shall be entitled, on surrendering that licence, to be issued, subject to the provisions of this section, with a licence to which this section, other than subsection (4), applies for the year 1991 shall, if the Minister in his discretion so prescribes be refunded the difference between the duty for that licence and the duty for the surrendered licence, subject to such conditions as he may prescribe.".

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 16, as amended, be agreed to".

The Minister should consider giving further consideration to section 16 (3). He should at least consider the possibility of allowing senior citizens to obtain a special licence at a reduced rate. I ask the Minister to bear this in mind between now and Report Stage. Otherwise I will put down an amendment to that effect.

I think I have outlined the raison d'etre for this already.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 8, before section 17, to insert the following new section:

17.—Section 294 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion of a new subsection as follows:

`(2A) (a) An appointment shall not be confirmed unless the person concerned has been issued by the appropriate regional board with a certificate of suitability for appointment.

(b) An appointment shall be for a period not exceeding five years.

(c) Every appointment made before the commencement of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1991, and in force at the date of the commencement thereof shall expire not later than five years after that date.

(d) The form of instrument of appointment set out in the Sixth Schedule to this Act may be modified in conformity with the provisions of this subsection.'.".

Section 294 of the Fisheries Conservation Act, 1959, provides for the appointment of individuals as private water keepers purely on the basis of applications by the persons concerned to a district justice. This process can be undergone without any consultation with the fishery boards in the area and has, I am told, given rise to situations where unsuitable persons have been appointed as water keepers which confers on them considerable power and authority under the Fisheries Acts. Another important aspect is that there is no time limit on such appointments. In order to tighten up this provision my amendment proposes that it should be necessary for an applicant for this form of appointment to hold a certificate on suitability issued by the Regional Fisheries Board and that there should be a time limit for five years on the appointment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 8, before section 17, to insert the following new section:

17.—The Principal Act is hereby amended by the substitution for Part I of the Fourth Schedule thereto (inserted by section 18 of the Fisheries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1987), of the Part set out in the Schedule to this Act.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 55:

In page 8, before section 17, to insert the following new section:

"17.—This Act shall not come into effect until such time as the rules for the regulation of societies in accordance with section 5 (1) have been published and agreed with the regional fisheries boards and the Minister.".

A number of amendments have been agreed to on the nod in the last few minutes. This is as it should be as they were only minor drafting amendments, which we all welcome. If the Minister accepted my amendment on the nod it would be great, but I do not think he will.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.