It is proposed to take No. 10. It is also proposed that Statements shall be made after Question Time today under Standing Order 41 in relation to the European Union Treaty and that the following arrangements shall apply: (1) the statement of the Taoiseach and of the speakers for the Fine Gael, Labour, Progressive Democrats and Democratic Left parties shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and (2) the Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be called on to make a statement in reply not exceeding ten minutes. It is further proposed, subject to the agreement of the House, that: (1) the sitting shall not be suspended today at 1.30 p.m. and (2) there will be no Private Members' Business this week. To facilitate the House, and perhaps some of the arguments being made here, I would add that I received a late request from Deputy Bruton, Leader of Fine Gael, to extend the ten minutes to 20 minutes and I am quite agreeable to accede to that request. I would regard the statements made here today purely as initial reactions of the leaders of the parties. I can assure Deputies that the House and the country will be kept fully informed of the matter and there will be other opportunities for debate as the position is clarified. There may be a crisis in Denmark today but there is no crisis in Ireland, despite the efforts of some politicians to try to create that impression in people's minds. There is no crisis, there will be no crisis and the referendum will be held on 18 June.
Order Of Business.
Are the proposals for dealing with statements agreed?
I propose the following amendment to the Order of Business: to add after paragraph (1) "that ten other speakers not being leaders of parties be allowed to make a contribution to this debate and that time be allocated to those speakers in proportion to party strength". I further propose an amendment to paragraph (2) after "The Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be called on to make a statement in reply not exceeding ten minutes" to add "and at the end of that reply the Minister shall have a further ten minutes to answer any questions that may be put to him on matters raised in the debate by other Members of the House".
I had intended proposing that No. 10 should be deleted from today's Order of Business and that we should discuss the Maastricht Treaty from 4 p.m. until 8.30 p.m. this evening. In the circumstances I have no difficulty in agreeing to what has been proposed by Deputy Bruton. However, I would again appeal to the Taoiseach to facilitate as many Deputies as wish to contribute to the debate.
I oppose this revised arrangement because it is no better than the original one. It is very cosy for the Government and Fine Gael to talk about extra time because they will get the extra time. No time will be made available for the Green Party who have an independent contribution to make. I insist that I be given five minutes.
I sought to make the point earlier that we are being asked to deal with item No. 10, the Regional Technical Colleges Bill, when the Minister is absent, the Green Paper has not been circulated and the Minister has just this morning circulated 40 amendments. This is clearly an opportunity for this House to debate without restriction the events that occurred in Denmark yesterday. I support in principle the proposal made by Deputy Bruton. However, I do not think he should have applied the ten speaker limit to the debate. All Deputies who wish to contribute to the debate should be enabled to do so, albeit, as Deputy Bruton may argue, in proportion to party size. I have no problem whatsoever with that proposal. There are Deputies here who have a view to express on this issue and they should be enabled to do so.
Let us not anticipate statements.
It should not be a matter for the Whips to decide who should and who should not speak in this House.
I am putting the amendments in the name of Deputy John Bruton.
I would ask the Taoiseach to accept the proposal and not put us through the charade of a vote.
There are two amendments in the name of the Deputy.
Is the Taoiseach willing to accept the proposal?
What does the Taoiseach say?
The Taoiseach should be asked whether he accepts the proposal.
Deputies should calm down. This debate will take place in a vacuum. It will be, by and large, an anticipatory debate. The Commission will state their position today, the Presidency will state their position and there will be a meeting on foreign affairs——
Everyone but this House will have an opportunity——
If Deputies do not want me to respond I will not do so. There will be a meeting on foreign affairs tomorrow in Oslo. People will be debating here this evening in a vacuum, an anticipatory debate, which is neither healthy nor good.
The Taoiseach has no respect for the House.
I made it abundantly clear that this House and the country will be kept fully informed of the matter and there will be an opportunity to debate it as the situation——
We want to know what they do in Europe.
The Taoiseach has not made up his mind.
Let us hear the Taoiseach.
If Deputies do not want to listen, that is fine.
Mr. J. Bruton rose.
I do not know whether the Taoiseach has concluded his remarks.
I was on my feet, but if Deputies do not want to hear me that is fine.
The Taoiseach sat down so I stood up.
If the Deputy sits down now I will finish. I received a request from Deputy Bruton just as I came into the House to extend the time of speakers from ten to 20 minutes and I acceded to that request. I have no hesitation in agreeing for the 20 minutes to be split four ways if that is what Deputies wish. I have said quite clearly that a debate at this stage would provide an opportunity for reaction from leaders of the parties in this House. There cannot be a real debate this afternoon in this House because we do not know what the Commission will say today, what the Presidency will say or what the Danish people will do. This is a crisis for Denmark but not for Ireland and no effort by parties to try to paper over cracks in the unity within their own parties will force me into a debate that will lead to nothing but further confusion.
May I respectfully suggest to the Taoiseach that if the Dáil is to have any influence on events we must have a debate that anticipates decisions? To hold a debate after other people have made their decisions would deny the Dáil any opportunity of influencing those decisions.
It is inherently wrong for the Taoiseach to deny the Dáil a debate on the grounds that other people have not yet made up their minds. We in this House must make up our minds——
That is not what I said.
——and then seek to get others to agree with us rather than wait for other people to make decisions and then have to accept the result of their work. That is the essence of parliamentary democracy in this House.
I suggested that the leaders of the parties put their position on the record of the House and we will return when we have plenty of ammunition——
There are people in this House other than leaders.
The Taoiseach should show some leadership.
I want to dispose of this matter. There are two amendments to be put to the House in the name of Deputy John Bruton.
I would like some clarification on the question you are going to put to the House, Sir. May I ask the Taoiseach if there is a reason that in the allocation of time the Progressive Democrats are included? Is it not normally the position that the Taoiseach would speak for the Government parties, or is there a difference on this occasion in relation to the Progressive Democrats?
The Deputy has very little to ask.
I wish to make a brief point on how we order our business. The Regional Technical Colleges Bill, 1991, is a very important matter that could and should appropriately be dealt with by a Special Committee of this House in Setanta House, while the major issue of the day affecting the country now, namely, the crisis in the EC, should be debated in this Chamber. It is appropriate that it be debated here and the Regional Technical Colleges Bill hived off to be dealt with by Special Committee.
I am putting the question in respect of (1) the statement of the Taoiseach——
On a point of order, Sir.
I will hear one more point of order.
Sir, will you allow me one moment to put this point to the Taoiseach? There are 166 Members in this House who were elected by the people because they believed we have views on the issues that face us. Why should the Taoiseach assume that because Members other than the party leaders want to speak in this House this is indicative of a crisis, disunity or of anything else other than that we are doing our job as legislators and want to debate this matter? Would the Taoiaeach not agree with that?
I am putting the question now——
He is dis-enfranchising 162 Deputies.
——"The statement of the Taoiseach and those of the speakers for the Fine Gael, Labour, Progressive Democrats and Democratic Left Parties shall not exceed ten minutes in each case." To that an amendment has been made by Deputy John Bruton. The House has heard the amendment and the question therefore is "That the amendment be made".
- Ahearn, Therese.
- Allen, Bernard.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Barry, Peter.
- Bell, Michael.
- Belton, Louis J.
- Boylan, Andrew.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
- Bruton, John.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Byrne, Eric.
- Carey, Donal.
- Connor, John.
- Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
- Cotter, Bill. Creed, Michael.
- Currie, Austin.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- De Rossa, Proinsias.
- Doyle, Joe.
- Dukes, Alan.
- Durkan, Bernard.
- Enright, Thomas W.
- Farrelly, John V.
- Fennell, Nuala.
- Ferris, Michael.
- Finucane, Michael.
- FitzGerald, Garret.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Foxe, Tom.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Gregory, Tony.
- Higgins, Jim.
- Higgins, Michael D.
- Hogan, Philip.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kemmy, Jim.
- McCartan, Pat.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- McGrath, Paul.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Mitchell, Jim.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
- O'Brien, Fergus.
- O'Shea, Brian.
- O'Sullivan, Gerry.
- O'Sullivan, Today.
- Owen, Nora.
- Pattision, Séamus.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Reynolds, Gerry.
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- Taylor, Mervyn.
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- Aylward, Liam.
- Barrett, Michael.
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- Clohessy, Peadar.
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- Cowen, Brian.
- Cullimore, Séamus.
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- de Valera, Síle.
- Ellis, John.
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- Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
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- Hyland, Liam.
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- Kenneally, Brendan.
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- Lenihan, Brian
- Brady, Gerard.
- Brady, Vincent.
- Brennan, Mattie.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, John (Wexford).
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Lyons, Denis.
- Martin, Micheál.
- McCreevy, Charlie.
- McEllistrim, Tom.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Morley, P.J.
- Nolan, M.J.
- Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
- O'Connell, John.
- O'Dea, Willie.
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- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Ned.
- O'Kennedy, Michael.
- O'Malley, Desmond J.
- O'Rourke, Mary.
- Power, Seán.
- Quill, Máirín.
- Reynolds, Albert.
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- Wyse, Pearse.
There are two proposals concerning the statements today, one that the Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be called on to make a statement in reply, not exceeding ten minutes, and there is a further amendment by Deputy John Bruton: to add ten minutes for clarification purposes by way of question and answer. I am now putting that question——
Will the Taoiseach agree to my amendment? It is very minor.
I will not.
I am now putting the question——
In order to facilitate the House——
When the Chair is putting the question it is particularly unwise to interrupt.
My intention is to be helpful. In order not to take up more time, I would be grateful if the Chair would put that question without the necessity for a division.
A Cheann Comhairle——
Sorry, Deputy. Are the arrangements in respect of Nos. 1 and 2 as outlined by the Taoiseach agreed?
They are not agreed. I must protest once again that there is no time being given to the Green Party or to The Workers' Party to make their case.
I am sorry Deputy, we have already heard that protestation.
Nor to the Fine Gael Party.
Is the proposal that the sitting should not be suspended at 1.30 p.m. today agreed? Agreed.
A Cheann Comhairle——
Is it agreed that there shall be no Private Members' Business today? Agreed.
As the Chair is aware the Fine Gael Party are not happy with the arrangements that have been made for a discussion on the outcome of the Danish referendum. Will the Taoiseach arrange to keep the House informed, on a daily basis if necessary, of developments in this matter, allowing an opportunity for other Members to comment on such reports as may be given by the Government in view of the great importance for this country of ensuring that the Irish people have the fullest possible information on all these issues in advance of the referendum on 18 June?
We are now entering into an area of repetition.
I have indicated to Deputy Bruton, to the House and to the country, that the Government will keep the country and the House informed as necessary, as developments take place. Since I spoke here in the past 45 minutes I understand that President Mitterand of France has asked that a referendum be held for the French people.
That was before the Taoiseach spoke.
Before the Deputy spoke.
Let us hear the Taoiseach without interruption.
I will say no more. The Deputies opposite are not interested in listening; they are playing politics. The Labour Party are now operating on the basis that this will help to paper over the cracks and splits in their party.
That is a disgrace.
Let us proceed in an orderly fashion. If we do not I will proceed to the next business.
There are two parties over there now.
Given what has happened to Senator Hanafin in the Fianna Fáil Party I will ignore that petty remark by the Taoiseach. May I seek some clarification from the Taoiseach in relation to what happened in the past 24 hours? Could the Taoiseach give this House some indication of the effect on the Treaty of non-ratification by the Danish people?
That may be dealt with when we come to the statements.
Furthermore, will the Taoiseach be in a position to give this House today the legal advice available to him in relation to that question?
I wish to ask a related question with regard to Maastricht. The Taoiseach, contrary to indications he gave at Question Time last week, announced the other day that he intended to apply for permanent observer status with the Western European Union. Will he clarify for this House what precisely the statement was about, when the decision was made by Cabinet and whether he was misleading this House last week when he indicated that the Government were not applying for permanent observer status?
The House will have an opportunity for clarification of these matters when we come to debate the statements.
I refer to Vote 38, the revised Estimate for the Department of Foreign Affairs. In view of the fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is travelling to Oslo tomorrow and presumably returning on Thursday night or Friday morning, will the Taoiseach consider taking the Estimate for the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday next so that the House could debate the outcome of the Oslo meeting?
The Whips can discuss when and where the Estimates can most appropriately be taken. The House will be kept fully informed of developments as they take place, where we deem it necessary and appropriate.
On the Order of Business——
I want to proceed with the business ordered. I shall not say we have wasted a lot of time — that would be incorrect — but we have taken up quite a lot of time on the Order of Business——
The Government could have saved a lot of time.
—— to the detriment of the items before us, such as the Regional Technical Colleges Bill to which Deputies referred earlier.
Would the Taoiseach arrange with the Department of Foreign Affairs to increase the number of staff in the Passport Office? He may not be aware that there are at least 200 people standing in Molesworth Street trying to get passports. Please take some action to allow these people to collect their passports.
On promised legislation——
I am sorry. I am proceeding to the business proper.