Order of Business.

I sincerely apologise to the Chair and Members of the House for being late. This is a difficult and extraordinary day and, as the Tánaiste said earlier, 11 minutes is not the end of the world in political life.

It is proposed to take No. 3a on the supplementary Order Paper. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that; 1. The sitting shall not be suspended at 1.30 p.m. today and shall be suspended at 5 p.m. today for one hour and at 1 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, 17 November 1994, for one hour. 2. Questions for oral reply shall not be taken today or tomorrow, Thursday, 17 November 1994. 3. Business shall be interrupted at 8.30 p.m. tonight and the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith. 4. Matters raised under Standing Order 30 shall not be taken tomorrow. 5. The proceedings on No. 3a shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 5 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, 17 November 1994, when the Dáil shall adjourn fortwith, and the following arrangements shall apply in relation to the debate: (i) the speech of the Taoiseach and of the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, of the Progressive Democrat Party, of the Democratic Left and of the Tánaiste shall not exceed 30 minutes; (ii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time; and (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon not later than 4.30 p.m. tomorrow to make a speech in reply. 6. There will be no Private Members' Business this evening.

Can that order be circulated immediately?

Why was there no meeting of the Whips to discuss this matter?

I apologise to the House and to the other Whips for being unable to meet them. I understand that the other Whips would not have been aware of the item on the Order of Business regarding the supplementary Order Paper. I apologise for that. Perhaps we might adjourn for ten minutes to allow me discuss this matter with the other Whips.

No, you do your business here on the floor of the House, there has been too much business done behind closed doors. The Government Chief Whip must give of that motion, give the arrangements and, explain why they did not keep the agreement on which this adjournment was granted, namely, that there would be a meeting of the Whips.

A supplementary Order Paper contains a motion of confidence in the Government. Unfortunately, I could not have a meeting with the other Whips in the interval— I have apologised for that — because I was attending other meetings.

Deputies

Why?

May I ask the Government Chief Whip what meeting is more important for a Government Chief Whip than one with the other Whips to discuss parliamentary business which is to take place within an hour?

Can we proceed with the Order of Business?

I have asked that the proposals read out by the Taoiseach should be circulated to us immediately. That has not been done.

Has this not been done?

May I ask also why the Government Chief Whip should not apologise for having been unable to hold a meeting for which this House was adjourned? We specifically adjourned this House for an hour to allow a meeting of the Whips take place. The Whips were informed at 11.05 a.m. that a meeting would take place at 11.40 a.m. That meeting did not take place because the Government Chief Whip was not available. We need greater explanation than simply being told he is sorry. It is a gross insult to this House that that should have occurred. May I ask again that the proposals the Taoiseach has read out be circulated to us so that we will know what we are talking about.

The Chair would very much wish that the House was in possession of this documentation.

I should say there is a motion before the House, which is one of no confidence in the Government. I am now indicating to the House that if the Opposition parties wish to discuss that motion the Government will accede to that request on the basis of what is agreed in the House.

Will Government time be provided for the Private Members' motion?

Government time will be provided in accordance with the proposals the Taoiseach has read out. Might I say also, with apologies, that we are making arrangements to circulate the proposals the Taoiseach has read out so that Members opposite can see them.

I appreciate the very clever move the Minister of State has just made. He is attempting to ask me to move my motion without first having heard what the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have to say about what Government we have. If we are to vote confidence, or no confidence, in a Government it is important that we know——

(Interruptions.)

——at least from the Taoiseach what is the position. I want to know: did the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs agree to this adjournment on the basis that there was to be a meeting of the Whips? Did the Tánaiste know that that undertaking had not been abided by? That is what we are trying to pursue. Why was the House not told the truth on this very simple matter? If we are to be asked to believe Ministers on other more complex matters, we should at least be able to believe them when they make statements about procedure in this House. I am not interested in the Minister of State's offer. I want to know — I would prefer to take the Government's motion, if that is the case — before taking the Government's motion why the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste agreed, and asked the House to agree, to an adjournment of one hour on the basis that there would be a meeting of the Whips when there was not a Whips meeting? Did they know that there would not be a Whips meeting? Did they know that that undertaking that both of them appeared to have given to this House would not be abided by? We have heard a lot about accountability in recent days. We are all accountable for our actions. I am willing to be accountable for mine. I would like to know what is the position of the Taoiseach, and the Tánaiste, in view of the fact that a meeting of the Whips promised in this House did not take place. We should receive an explanation for this business, so we do not have the ludicrous position in which the House could not meet because the Government would not attend here and nobody would know the business for the House.

(Interruptions.)

Let us not continue this debate but rather get down to the business of the House.

What business?

Will the House please allow me to read the Order of Business, as I do usually, and proceed to the business as ordered?

This matter should be circulated to the House before we are asked to decide it. We must see the documention before we agree to it.

In case it was not heard, I apologised for not meeting the Whips; I was at a meeting — which overran — with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste.

(Interruptions.)

The document circulated is not the Order of Business and we cannot make a decision until we have the Order of Business. Will the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste say if, in respect of the recent discovery of documents in the Attorney General's office, there is another document that ought to be before this House that will rock the foundations of this society to its very roots?

The Deputy is now anticipating the debate which is about to commence.

If there is such a document as suggested, its contents should be before this House before Deputy Bruton moves his motion and we should know now whether the Labour Party has rowed in behind the Taoiseach following the discovery of this document.

It is proposed to take 3a on the supplementary Order Paper.

On a point of order——

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the sitting shall not be suspended at 1.30 p.m. today and shall be suspended at 5 p.m. today for one hour and at 1 o'clock tomorrow, Thursday, 17 November 1994 for one hour. The sitting shall not be suspended at 1.30 today. Questions for oral reply shall not be taken today or tomorrow Thursday, 17 November 1994. Business shall be interrupted at 8.30 tonight and the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith. Matters raised under Standing Order 30 shall not be taken tomorrow. The proceedings on No. 3a, that is, the motion in the name of the Minister of State that Dáil Éireann reaffirms its confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government, shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 5 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, 17 November, 1994 when the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith.

The following arrangements shall apply in relation to the debate: (1) the speech of the Taoiseach and the Leaders of Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats, Democratic Left and the Tánaiste shall not exceed 30 minutes. The speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case. Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon not later than 4.30 p.m. tomorrow to make a speech in reply. There will be no Private Members' Business this evening. I trust that that order is in the hands of the Members by now.

The matters we will deal with in the debate are extraordinary by any standards. Nobody could have confidence in the Government. We should have an open ended debate and no guillotine as proposed by the Taoiseach for 5 o'clock tomorrow. Any Deputy who wishes to contribute to this debate should be entitled to do so.

Is it agreed that the sitting shall not be suspended at 1.30 today?

I am not willing to accept a 30 minute limitation on my contribution to this debate. We do not know if some deal has been patched up between the Government partners or the nature of such a deal. If we hear about it it will be in the Taoiseach's speech and anybody responding in such a situation should not be limited as to time because it will require time to assimilate what has been said and to tease out each of the elements that may be contained in it.

Furthermore, I do not agree to item 4 in the order which says that matters shall not be raised under Standing Order 30. It may well be that a number of very serious individual issues will arise in this debate or in the initial contributions by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste which should be probed further. The nature of a confidence debate does not allow that to happen. Therefore, the only way open to the House to deal with an individual matter which requires to be specifically addressed and teased out before the final vote on the confidence motion would be by means of a Standing Order 30 urgency motion. I am, therefore, not willing to agree to the proposal relating to Standing Order 30 motions.

I also believe the House should sit longer so that more speakers can take part. It is also very important that as leader of the principal Opposition party I should not be put in a position where I am forced to constrain my remarks to half an hour on what is the most appalling episode in terms of internal collapse of a Government in national history.

Proinsias De Rossa rose.

I am putting the items before the House. The Chair is anxious to ascertain what the House does agree on.

I am sorry, a Ceann Comhairle, I insist on my right to speak. I am entitled to speak on the order before the House.

I have not put it to the House yet.

Exactly, and I want to speak before you put it to the House. I am entitled to do so. There is a proposal before the House and I intend to speak on it.

Please be brief, Deputy.

We have before us a proposal which was clearly cobbled together at the last minute by the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach to save their bacon. It seems that we are dealing with one of the most sleazy events in Irish Parliamentary history.

(Interruptions.)

The Deputy is clearly anticipating the debate.

Is it true a memorandum has been found in the Attorney General's Office which indicates that there was outside interference in the decision by the Attorney General not to proceed with extradition for seven months?

Is the proposal that the sitting shall not be suspended at 1.30 p.m. today and shall be suspended at 5 p.m. today for one hour and at 1 p.m. tomorrow for one hour satisfactory and agreed?

No, it is not agreed.

(Interruptions.)

If the Government had given us the business in good time we would have had the opportunity to consult about it. The Government is in such a complete mess that it is not able to produce the Order of Business in the normal way. If the Opposition has difficulty in assessing the intentions of the Government it is because it has been so incompetent in presenting itself to this House as a Government.

(Interruptions.)

I will not accept interruptions of that kind from Fianna Fáil backbenchers. It is wrong that the House should not be suspended at 1.30 today. It appears that the Taoiseach will make quite a bizarre speech. Having heard him, the House should have the opportunity of a recess to analyse what he said. When I reply I want to be able to do so on the basis of having read what the Taoiseach said.

The Government is an absolute disgrace.

(Interruptions.)

There is no need for raised voices. I had a request from the Fine Gael Whip to my office to investigate certain matters. I am having that done. I am not leading the debate for obvious reasons because when I come into this House I want to give the full facts.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach was here all day yesterday.

In view of the fact that there is a message from the Fine Gael Whip to my office about a very serious matter I will get that information, but I do not have it now to lead off the debate and I am not going to do so until I am in a position to give the full facts to the House.

Why then did the Government Whip expect me to open the debate without having heard the Taoiseach?

The Deputy's party put down the motion.

Are we supposed to pass judgement on something we have not heard?

As the Taoiseach has indicated that he is not in a position to put the facts before the House, the only option is for the House to adjourn until such time as he is able to put them before the House.

Order, please. If order is not restored I will take the initiative to ask that we adjourn for a particular period of time to rectify these matters.

This has been the most undignified episode in the history of the Dáil.

Let us come together to do our business in an orderly fashion.

I am happy that the House should adjourn until the Taoiseach is in a position to give whatever explanations he has to give to the House. We cannot commence the debate in a meaningful way until the Taoiseach has given whatever explanation he has to offer.

I ask that we adjourn for a specific period of time. What time do Members require?

The Chair should ask the Taoiseach.

Shall we say another hour? Will that be sufficient?

I do not have any objection to Deputy Bruton's suggestion that the House should take a sos. I will be straight. If I do not have the information at 2.45 p.m. I will ring Deputy Bruton to tell him that I will speak at 4 o'clock or 5 o'clock.

That is not good enough.

I suggest that we adjourn until 3 o'clock.

Will the Taoiseach have the facts by then?

I want to get agreement on the time.

I do not know what some Members in the House are talking about, but I can tell Members that I will not come into the House without the facts.

On behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I am prepared to agree to any reasonable adjournment because it is important that we get the full facts——

——not some cobbled together information that is not fully adequate. I presume everyone has to make serious decisions on the basis of those facts and that decisions have not been made already. I hope the adjournment will be as long as is necessary. I am happy to specify a time, say 4 o'clock, on the understanding that we can meet at that time and if the Taoiseach says then that he needs more time we will not be unwilling to agree to that.

That is fair enough.

Is 4 o'clock unsatisfactory?

It is unreasonable that the Chair will not allow a leader speak.

I will hear Deputy Harney but I want to fix the time now and have a consensus on it.

Yesterday the Taoiseach told us in his speech that he was putting the full facts before the House.

As he knew them to be.

I know what Deputies opposite will do to stay in power. They will find anything they need to do that. I am prepared to agree to an adjournment until 4 o'clock provided the Taoiseach tells the House the full facts of this matter from beginning to end.

Let us not anticipate the debate. May I take it that the sitting is suspended until 4 o'clock?

I have no problem with that.

Sitting suspended at 12.35 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.

I wish to report to the House that the Whips are still in session. Although I think some of the Whips opposite may have questions, I am proposing adjournment of the House, by agreement, until 5 p.m. or later. The questions may last a long time and we want to have about an hour to prepare for the debate.

Is the Deputy seeking an adjournment of an hour?

Will the Taoiseach at that point be in a position to make a definitive statement to the House?

Since the Dáil adjourned I have been making my best endeavours to get to the root of the two complaints made here about documents that are supposed to exist in the Attorney General's office. As of now — the inquiries are not complete — I have drawn a negative response everywhere. I understand that one of the stories doing the rounds — this is what I was told when I made inquiries — is that there is supposed to be in existence a certain letter which cannot be traced. I requested my office to contact Deputy Rabbitte to see if he could assist us in accelerating our inquiries and he was not in a position to give us much help.

On Deputy Kenny's remarks, we have found no trace in that area either. All the staff from the Attorney General's office available in the country have been interviewed about this matter and each and every one of them has said they have no knowledge whatsoever in this regard. Up to half an hour ago three people were still to be interviewed. Two have left the country, one of whom will be arriving in Frankfurt at 6.25 p.m., and the other is on holiday on the west coast of America. We have contacted this person's brother and sister who live in Dublin but the chances of being able to track down the person are slim. They are our best efforts so far. No member of the staff who have been interviewed can assist in this regard. They say they have no knowledge of any such letter. I understand that a public statement has been made by the Cardinal to the effect that no such letter was ever sent.

We will continue to try to contact the two remaining people who have not been interviewed. Hopefully, with the agreement of the House, we will proceed with the debate at 5 p.m. and if I have more up-to-date information at that time I will give it. I was told this morning not to come back to the House without being in a position to give full details to the House. I have no more information now than I had the last time I was here. It was the strong wish of the House that I should give the full facts and I will give the full facts when I have them.

It would be pointless for this House to resume at 5 p.m. if one of the officials yet to be interviewed is not due to arrive at Frankfurk until 6.25 p.m. I presume, therefore, that all the facts will not be known. With regard to the people who have been interviewed, will the Taoiseach indicate whether the person he told us yesterday was the sole official dealing with the file has been interviewed?

All persons in the office, including the person concerned, have been interviewed.

Will the Taoiseach indicate if the former Attorney General has been spoken to today and if there will be any resignations from the Government? I notice that the Minister for Justice is not present. Is this significant?

Is what significant?

Does the Taoiseach expect any resignations from the Government?

No. I do not. In relation to the former Attorney General, I have to check as to when and on what date the information was given. I will give the Deputy the information at 5 p.m.

I ask the Taoiseach if the former Attorney General was spoken to today.

I want to be very careful about this; I will have to check if the information I gave in my speech yesterday came from him or an official. I will make this clear at 5 p.m.

Did the Taoiseach speak to the former Attorney General today or did anybody do so on his behalf?

No, not today.

The Taoiseach has said that the information has not turned up in the Attorney General's office. Are any other Departments being investigated at this time?

The information was supposed to be in existence in files in the Attorney General's office.

That is not what was said here.

I want to be open about this and I hope the Deputy will do the same. If he can give me any help I will go to whatever Department is supposed to have information and I will disclose the full facts in this House. I am not in the business of covering up for anyone or hiding anything. As Deputy Rabbitte rightly said, I do not expect the Deputy to name his sources but he should point us in the right direction. If he does not have any information he should please withdraw the allegation.

I want the Taoiseach to investigate the way in which this extradition case was handled by whatever Departments were involved directly or indirectly, including the Department of Justice.

As I am sure you and the Taoiseach will recall, Fine Gael merely raised a routine query about whether all the officials dealing with the Smyth case had been spoken to to determine the veracity of the statement that no representations were made. We made no allegations and we have no solid basis for any allegation and never have had. We simply raised the question if the officials had been asked. Why is it they were not asked these questions which are normal by the former Attorney General before he presented his report to the Government? Why do we have to ask them at this stage?

I can tell the House openly that only one official dealt with the Smyth case and they have been interviewed.

We may save time by clarifying the matter now. The position is that last night Deputy Kenny, as is the case with anyone pursuing an inquiry, tried to look for proof. He inquired who was asked to verify whatever statements were made. This was one statement made in the Attorney General's office. We were not satisfied that the Taoiseach's answers last night were completely categorical because he used the phrase "to his knowledge" and did not go any further. At 11.30 a.m. today Deputy Kenny simply asked the Taoiseach to verify the matter and to state categorically that no representations had been made. All we were trying to do was pin down what the Taoiseach was saying. One should not accept anything at face value from anybody in circumstances such as this; it is one's job to look for the proof.

Deputies Harney and Rabbitte rose.

Let us not forget the time factor; 5 p.m. was mentioned. There has been an erosion of time——

One hour.

Sixty minutes from when we leave the Chamber.

I do not understand what the Taoiseach has been at all day. Has he asked for the resignation of any member of the Government?

I have not asked for the resignation of any member of the Government.

Has the Tánaiste?

Is the Taoiseach playing for time?

Will the Taoiseach clarify the reason he considers it would be worth while to return in one hour if he does not expect to interview one of the staff concerned in the Attorney General's office before 6.25 p.m. and in view of the fact that he has not carried out yet any investigation, for instance, into the role which may have been played by the Department of Justice in this matter?

On a point of information, the whips were still in session coming up to 4 p.m. I understood that there was consensus between the Whips sitting opposite that they wanted the debate to start at 5 p.m. or in one hour's time. I outlined two options to two of the Whips; I am not sure if Deputy Rabbitte was present at the time. I suggested that we could start almost immediately once we had dealt with the mechanics; that, because the Taoiseach did not have the full information requested in the House this morning, the Minister for Finance should lead off and the Taoiseach would come into the House when the information was available but no later than 10.30 a.m. tomorrow when he would explain whether he had the information.

The other option I put to the Whips was that, because we did not have the information available, we adjourn until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow when we would start the confidence debate. The two Whips sitting opposite can confirm this. If the Opposition has another option they should put it forward. I had to leave the room for approximately three or four minutes and when I returned it was my clear understanding from what was said, although it was a rushed conversation, that the three Whips had agreed the confidence debate should start this evening and that the Taoiseach should lead off when he would outline the information available to him. That is my understanding and if I am wrong someone should tell me.

Will it be possible for the Taoiseach to make a definitive statement at 5 p.m. when he has not yet completed his investigations?

Fine Gael is anxious to ensure there will be no disruption of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation which is due to meet on Friday. It is expected and the Whips are anxious to ensure that the Taoiseach, as leader of the Government, will commence the debate on the confidence motion. We are also anxious to ensure that there will be a recess after the Taoiseach has completed his speech to allow us assimilate its importance. When the three remaining officials in the Attorney General's office have been interviewed by the Taoiseach's personnel extra information, if any, should be given to the House during the course of the debate. The Whips should be able to organise this subsequent to the adjournment. We are anxious to ensure that this matter will be cleared up before the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation meets on Friday.

I find this matter bizarre. The Taoiseach has said that one official cannot be contacted until 6.25 p.m. and that another is on holidays. If that is the case, we will not have all the facts. It seems the Taoiseach is making the inquiries only because of Deputy Enda Kenny's questions.

Deputy Rabbitte made a very serious allegation.

Will the Tánaiste throw some light on what is going on because it is quite confusing?

I made it clear that very serious charges were made in the House which I was asked to investigate fully. I was requested also not to start this debate until I was in a position to give all the facts, after I had ascertained them, which I am prepared to do. This morning I offered the option of starting this debate with the Minister for Finance and I said I would place the full, unvarnished facts before the House.

Deputy Rabbitte made a very serious allegation with which I am entitled — as I am sure he and other Members would want — to deal in depth. That is what I am doing. It is not my fault that a staff member of the Attorney General's office is en route from Macedonia and will touch down in Frankfurt at 6.25 p.m. I have not been idle, as the Deputy may suggest, all afternoon. I am down to the last two——

A stalling tactic at this stage.

——and if Members can help to accelerate the process, I will be happy to avail of their assistance.

I wonder if we could clarify the point made by Deputy Enda Kenny: after the Taoiseach makes his opening statement will the House adjourn for one hour to give the Opposition an opportunity to assimilate it? May I clarify a matter raised by Deputy Bruton relating to the statement made yesterday by the Taoiseach when he said he was assured there was no outside interference in the matter for the warrants for Fr. Brendan Smyth and asked whether there was outside interference or representations in this case?

Does the Taoiseach accept that he and the former Attorney General have to answer questions in this House, not Deputy Kenny and I?

It is very difficult to know where Democratic Left is coming from. Deputy De Rossa said it is useless to start this debate without the full facts but Deputy Rabbitte asked for a sos after my opening statement. If they could sort out between themselves what they really want I will try to facilitate them.

That was not the question.

I stand over my statement yesterday in relation to the questions raised by Deputies Kenny and Rabbitte on outside influence or outside contacts either with me, the Attorney General or the person who handled the file. I was asked to widen it to deal with whether files existed or a letter was on a file and we have progressed it to the stage I mentioned.

We were quite happy to start this debate with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, this morning if the House so wished and I would then come into the House with the full facts.

A lot of waffle, a stalling tactic.

Whatever the House wants me to do, I am open to doing so. If the House so decides, we can start the debate now and I will contribute later this evening. However, if Deputies want me to start with the information available to me——

Try the Hiace van, the Taoiseach might find it there.

I suggest that the best option is to let the Whips get on with their business and sort it out.

Deputy Molloy is showing himself in his true colours.

Deputy Cowen has been very quiet up to now.

The reason the debate did not start this morning was that the person who should have opened it, the Taoiseach, was unwilling or unable to do so.

Unable, out of his own failure, to open it at the appropriate time. The situation now is that six Ministers are apparently not attending Cabinet meetings and I understand that we do not have a Government now——

Or Opposition.

It is important that this matter is cleared up quickly.

It is not a question of not being unable or unwilling, there was no Cabinet meeting today.

After the last question it is only fitting that I raise a fundamental question about which the entire country is wondering. It is time the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste got off the fence and told the House whether the partnership Government is still in being or if part of it is semi-detached and heading to the country. We are entitled to know and to bring the farce being acted out in this House to an end.

Let me express the hope that after we adjourn we shall be in a position to proceed with the business of the House——

It is a fair question.

Deputy Quinn does not know whether he is in Opposition.

——and I advise the House to take sufficient time to ensure that that is so.

It is my understanding that one hour will be sufficient.

We will reconvene in our hour from now.

Sitting suspended at 4.30 p.m. and resumed at 5.30 p.m.