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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 15 Jun 1993

Vol. 432 No. 3

Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1993: Report and Final Stages.

Before we come to amendment No. 1, I want to advise the Chair that there is a printing error in the first line of section 4 (7) on page 4 of the Bill. The word "had" should be inserted between the words "having" and "regard". This is how the Bill was amended in Committee.

That has been noted by the House.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 9, before "appropriate" to insert "the".

This was suggested by the draftsperson for the sake of drafting consistency. It makes no change to the meaning of the section.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 4 is an alternative to amendment No. 2. I suggest, therefore, that they be taken together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

"6.—The Minister shall take steps to ensure that among the members of the RTE Authority to be nominated by him, a minimum of 40 per cent., of both men and women shall be nominated.".

We had a rather long discussion on this on Committee Stage. The intention is to take on board the question of women in decision-making and to ensure that for the first time we have in legislation a minimum of 40 per cent men and 40 per cent women nominated to the board of RTE. This is in line with a recommendation of the first Commission on the Status of Women which was fully accepted by the Government two years ago. Since then, the Free Legal Aid Board and Eolas did not have any women nominated to them. In a series of questions to a range of Ministers I discovered that quite a proportion of boards still fall very far below this 40 per cent figure. In effect, this means that women are not in the decision-making arena in State boards. The intention here is to remedy this in legislation for the first time. It is important that the Government accept the recommendation but it is also important to build that into legislation in this way because that would give us equality in reality.

It is important that the Minister should lead the way in this regard in this Bill. This is an important opportunity for him. It is particularly important because of the statistics that emerged this week in relation to women in the workforce which show that in Ireland we are out of step with the rest of Europe in terms of women working outside the home and involved in decision-making arenas outside of the home. It is important to give clear recognition to the importance of having balanced decision-making in all arenas and that means the involvement of men and women using the talents of women and men in every arena. This amendment would allow that. This is an historic opportunity to enshrine in legislation a minimum of 40 per cent women and 40 per cent men nominated to the RTE Authority.

The recent Third Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men published by the European Community emphasised the critical role of the media in relation to progressing equality and, therefore, in the decision-making arena of RTE it is important that women are well represented.

I suport this amendment and I appeal to the Minister to accept the substance of this amendment. This Minister is very well positioned to do that. Since his appointment his record in appointing women to boards has been impeccable. He has not missed any opportunity. He has appointed women to the Film Board and to other boards. It is reasonable that we on this side of the House should look to the Minister, the Cabinet and the Government for leadership in this repect. The Minister has an established reputation in this area. If the Minister does not take this amendment on board it will give ammunition to others who may not be as progressive in their thinking as the Minister on this matter. That would be detrimental to the welfare of this country in the years ahead.

The essential argument is that in every area of public life we need to enlist the experiences and talents of women at every stage and no opportunity must be passed up. This is an ideal opportunity for a Minister for the first time ever to incorporate this principle into law. It is an historic opportunity and I appeal to the Minister not to pass it up and to agree to accept the amendment.

As I understand it, the Minister is accepting the substance of what we debated on Committee Stage. While there are some differences between the Minister's amendment No. 4 and Deputy Fitzgerald's amendment, the intent is the same. Deputy Fitzgerald's amendment reads:

"6.—The Minister shall takes steps to ensure that among the members of the RTE Authority to be nominated by him, a minimum of 40 per cent, of both men and women shall be nominated.".

The Minister's amendment seeks to amend the Broadcasting Authority Act without going into the percentages. It refers to not fewer than three out of seven and not fewer than four out of eight or nine. That meets the argument I was making although I cannot speak for Deputies in other parties. I welcome the fact that the Minister has brought forward this amendment. I detected a reluctance on his part at the time, not that he was not agreeable to the principle of what we were proposing, but that he felt at the time that it might be more appropriately done by general legislation covering all Government appointments to boards. Therefore, I welcome the fact that he has considered the case made by all Members who spoke on Committee Stage that he should introduce his amendment here.

One question I want to put to the Minister relates to the second part of his amendment No. 4 concerning the coming into effect of the provisions of this amendment, which states:

(2) This section shall come into operation on the 1st day of June, 1995, or such earlier day as the Minister may appoint by order.

I know I erred when speaking on Committee Stage and referring to the appointment of the RTE Authority this autumn. Since then I understand that is not the case, that they are not to be re-appointed in the autumn; unless of course the Minister decides that that is what he wants to do. Would the Minister clarify the reasons that 1 June 1995 is specified. Does the current RTE Authority term run until June 1995 and is that why it has been inserted? If not, would he say why it has been included? Again, in relation to the last part, which states "or such earlier day as the Minister may appoint by order," I presume he is so stipulating in case he may have cause to remove the Authority for some reason or other.

Therefore I very much welcome Deputy Frances Fitzgerald's amendment and the Minister's taking on board the very strong case made on Committee Stage.

Like Deputy De Rossa, it is only fitting that I, too, should compliment Deputy Frances Fitzgerald and the Minister on having been big enough to accept this amendment, perhaps in a different form of words or presentation; but I predict it will be seen as a benchmark vis-à-vis future legislation. It is particularly important since there is perhaps an easier option, that is, to await a global decision covering all legislation. The Minister has been very courageous in this regard and has been consistent. I compliment him, particularly, as Deputy Quill said, since the experience of women has been ignored to date. It is extremely important that at last they are being recognised. Indeed, this House has come a long way in a few short months in regard to the role of women in society. Perhaps it could be said that I was one of the perpetrators of that gender quota in many respects. Nonetheless, I accept in the interests of democracy——


Yes, indeed, as Deputy Quill well knows. I compliment the Minister on his courageous step and Deputy Frances Fitzgerald on having tabled her amendment.

May I say first that the spirit in which the amendment was tabled on Committee Stage was one with which I very much identified. Nonetheless, I had difficulty in relation to some of the wording. For example, at that particular stage we had disposed of amendments dealing with radio, with which I can deal when I come to my fundamental broadcasting Bill, which will include a review of the 1988 Act and which is the appropriate place for that.

In asking Members to accept my amendment No. 4 I want to make a couple of important points. I decided on reflection, and the matters on which I reflected were as follows. One was that I needed an appropriate wording. I was worried about the reference beyond the RTE Authority with which my Bill dealt. I wanted an opportunity of considering the issue vis-à-vis general legislation, or particular legislation. While I have been very impressed by the arguments advanced from the opposite side of the House, and share them, I concluded that it might be better to proceed with particular legislation which can be encompassed later within a general Bill. Yet I did not want to lose the opportunity of putting forward the participation of women and concluded that I would move an amendment to that effect. In fact my amendment No. 4 goes further than Deputy Frances Fitzgerald's amendment No. 2 in a number of ways. I decided to be specific about numbers. The number of members of the Authority can vary between seven and nine. Where it is seven, there will be not fewer than three men and three women and, where it is nine, there will be not fewer than four men and four women. I will not argue about percentages.

The House will recall that on Committee Stage I was asked to consider a nomination process through Government. In fact I am creating an obligation to achieve the gender balance I have described. It goes further than a nomination process; in fact it is an obligation in the law. The House should remember also that I have gone further than the recommendation of the Commission on the Status of Women, which did not request specific legislative action. I am pleased to do that. I am also pleased that such a proposal, which will heighten the consciousness of women on the RTE Authority, is supported by all sides of the House. That is a very welcome development.

I hope Deputy Frances Fitzgerald will see that not only the spirit but the letter of her intent has been more than met in my amendment No. 4. I am grateful to Deputy Quill for drawing attention to the fact. Indeed, I have been pursuing the conscious policy of building up gender representation. I referred the last time to the fact that I had made an appointment to the board of the National Gallery and have availed of the one vacancy obtaining in the Independent Radio and Television Commission to appoint a woman there, should vacancies arise in the interim I intend to positively pursue my aim of building up gender representation on the basis of equality.

Deputy De Rossa raised a very good point and is absolutely correct. I have specified the date in the second part of my amendment No. 4 to coincide with the date of appointment of the new RTE Authority, the legitimacy of the currency Authority having to be protected. However, I should assure him that if any casual vacancies arise I hope to follow the pattern of my present thinking, which is to build up gender equality. May I assure the House also that when I come to make further appointments at the time of my fundamental review of broadcasting, they will see the same spirit reflected in that legislation which will cover radio broadcasting.

I am grateful to Deputy Toddy O'Sullivan for his kind remarks. He will be familiar with my views on this subject. I am delighted that it has received such support in the House.

Certainly, I agree that the Minister's amendment meets the spirit and intent of the amendment I had tabled in relation to the balance of women and men to serve on the RTE Authority. I thank the Minister for having taken this amendment on board. I agree with Deputy Quill that it is a breakthrough. We hear much lip service and talk about equality. We want to see action being taken and legislative proposals building in what is accepted in theory. It is indeed gratifying to see this being included in the provisions of this Bill and being clearly spelled out. It is an historic breakthrough, a marker, and an example of one individual Minister taking action within his remit. I hope it is an example which will be followed by other Ministers in the future. As the Minister said, it goes beyond the recommendation of the Commission on the Status of Women by building into law this minimum percentage of women and men within a decision-making arena. It is extremely important because the matter of whoever takes decisions in our society is critical. We have an unfinished democracy; we have half a democracy if women and men are not both involved in decision-making such as this.

I thank the Minister for taking my amendment on board and am delighted to have given him the opportunity to build this into the provisions of this Bill. I hope it will be a marker for the future.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 6, line 30, after "as may be" to insert, ",but not later than 3 months,".

The position in relation to this amendment was that I was seeking to address a point raised by Deputy Quill in the course of our Committee Stage debate. I believe I have met the spirit of her amendment, one which I share. Indeed, it has been my attitude throughout this short Bill to accommodate as many Committee Stage amendments as I could. If it is a first, I welcome it, because it has not been of any bother to me and I may continue to do so in other Bills.

The purpose of my amendment No. 3, is to insert after the words "as may be" the words "but not later than 3 months". What Deputy Quill was looking for was a legislative deadline in respect of the report which will be produced by RTE under section 6 of the legislation which deals with the commissioning of independent television programmes. It seems that a requirement to produce the report within three months of the end of each financial year is reasonable, given the importance of the report. I wanted to meet the spirit of her amendment but to implement it in the most manageable way within good practice, given the maximum amount of information in the report. I believe that this amendment meets the intent of the amendment she tabled on Committee Stage.

I thank the Minister for meeting the spirit and, indeed, the substance of my amendment. I am very pleased with the outcome. A time limit of three months is reasonable. On reflection, perhaps my amendment was too restrictive. The requirement that the report be published within three months is more reasonable because RTE will have time to prepare and present a proper report. The amendment also meets the requirement for accountability to this House. That was my overall intention when I tabled the amendment. I accept that the Minister's amendment is the better one.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 6, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:

"7. (1) The Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, is hereby amended—

(a) in section 4, by the insertion after subsection (1) of the following subsection:

`(1A) (a) Where the number of members of the Authority for the time being is 7, not less than 3 of them shall be men and not less than 3 of them shall be women.

(b) Where the number of members of the Authority for the time being is 8 or 9, not less than 4 of them shall be men and not less than 4 of them shall be women.';

(b) in section 10, by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (5):

`(5) The Authority may act notwithstanding one or more vacancies among its members (including one or more vacancies that result in subsection (1A) (inserted by the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act, 1993) of section 4 of this Act not being complied with).'.

(2) This section shall come into operation on the 1st day of June, 1995, or such earlier day as the Minister may appoint by order.".

Amendment agreed to.
Question put: "That the Bill do now pass".
The Dáil divided: Tá, 63; Níl, 37.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Eithne.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Gallagher, Pat.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Morley, P. J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Mulvihill, John.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.


  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cox, Pat.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Ferris; Níl, Deputies E. Kenny and Boylan.
Question declared carried.