It is proposed to take No. 8, motion re. Dáil Reform, and No. 1, European Parliament Elections Bill, 1996 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements shall apply to No. 8: (i) Members may table amendments, on notice, to Appendices 1 and 2 to the First Report of the Sub-Committee of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on Reform of Dáil Procedure dated 19 June 1996; (ii) (a) the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party, the Labour Party, the Progressive Democrats Party and the Democratic Left Party shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (b) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (c) Members may share time; (d) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon not later than 4.45 p.m. today to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 15 minutes; and (e) the debate, if not previously concluded, shall be interrupted at 5 p.m. whereupon the amendments to the report shall be taken pursuant to paragraph (1) (iii); (iii) the amendments to the report shall be considered in Committee of the whole Dáil not later than 5 p.m. and shall be moved and disposed of in proper order provided that any division demanded on any amendment shall be postponed until 6.45 p.m. today whereupon the proceedings on all such amendments and on No. 8 shall be brought to a conclusion by one question which shall be put from the Chair not later than 6.45 p.m. Private Members' Business shall be No. 21 — motion re. hepatitis C (resumed) and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight.
Order of Business.
There are two matters to put to the House. Are the arrangements for dealing with No. 8, that is, the matter appertaining to Dáil reform, satisfactory and agreed? Agreed. Is the arrangement for dealing with Private Members' Business this evening satisfactory? Agreed.
Overnight the Provisional IRA admitted responsibility for the terrible deeds in Lisburn on Monday. On behalf of Fianna Fáil I want to condemn, in the most severe terms, those terrible acts against the people of the North and the people of this island generally. This morning it appears that the efforts of many people have been set at nought, but it is at times like this that political leaders, particularly the two Governments, must act. There is a feeling that, since 1 September, the British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach have not moved the peace process forward. Therefore, it seems an appropriate time to have a summit.
I hesitate to interrupt the Leader of the main Opposition Party——
Will the Taoiseach give me an answer?
——but one has to have regard to the fact that a large number of questions are tabled to the Taoiseach today, as there were yesterday. This matter was dealt with yesterday and will be dealt with again today at the appropriate time which is Question Time.
Events have moved on. People's lives are at risk, and everybody in the world is talking about us. I would not raise something irrelevant. I am asking simply whether we will have a summit and move things forward.
There are procedures in this House to which the Chair must conform. These matters will be dealt with today at 2.30 p.m. as they were yesterday.
I do not intend to ask questions, but it is important that I at least comment as Deputy Ahern has done.
I have ruled on the matter.
I believe the House should make its feelings known on what has happened and on what was admitted by the IRA.
At the appropriate time.
Which is now.
This takes the matter out of the hands of the Chair.
I wish to avail of the opportunity of responding to what Deputy Ahern said and to what I believe Deputy Harney is about to say.
It is appropriate that we should say something this morning. Last night's admission by the IRA that it carried out the bombings in Lisburn on Monday is a sickening reminder that it intends to continue to use violence to pursue its political goals. We must make it clear that it will not bomb its way to the talks. In particular, we must appeal to the loyalist parties to resist this clear provocation. Equally, constitutional politicians and Governments must ensure that the peace process and the talks process do not slide into oblivion. We must ensure that politics works. With that in mind, I suggest that the two Governments and the two main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party, should meet under one roof, at a mutually acceptable venue, and seek to reach a consensus, to establish what unites them rather than what divides them. If they could do that it would add a powerful momentum to the process and break the stalemate that has now arisen. It is difficult not be pessimistic, but we cannot allow ourselves to let this process die. In particular, there is an enormous onus, not just on the Governments but on the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party, the two main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, to rescue that process which is under way.
Is it the view of the House now that the procedures be set aside and that the matter be debated?
Deputy Ahern and Deputy Harney have made brief statements. It would be sufficient that I be allowed to make a brief statement also. We need not go to the trouble of setting procedures aside and having a structured debate. If it is acceptable to the Opposition Parties I would like to say a few words.
Members will have heard this morning that theIrish News in Belfast, reflecting mainstream Nationalism opinion in Northern Ireland has a front page editorial entitled “How the IRA Betrayed the People of Ireland”. The Lisburn bombing is, indeed, a cynical betrayal by the IRA of the peace process. The IRA has now completed the terrible triangle — we have had IRA bombs in Britain, an IRA murder in Limerick in the Republic, and now we have had IRA bombs without notice in Lisburn.
This betrayal came from an organisation that told democratic politicians its original ceasefire would hold in all circumstances. Now it seems that the IRA intends to continue to maintain the option of violence to be used as and when it is deemed politically useful. The Lisburn bomb puts in stark relief the hard question whether the armalite in one hand and the ballot box in the other is the unchanged and unchanging political strategy of the Republican movement. Was there ever a fundamental departure from that strategy by the movement as a whole?
The Irish State cannot be hostage to tactical manoeuvres by a violent movement which is only willing to give up the option of violence if it gets the terms it has dictated to everybody else, and is willing to continue to use violence as one of its tactics from time to time to get those terms.
Those were the classic tactics of the National Socialists and Fascists during the 1920s and the 1930s. The strategy of the ballot box in one hand and the gun in the other was, after all, first originated by the Nazis. David Ervine is right. These bombers and their supporters also betray the ideals of the great Irishman Wolfe Tone who wanted to unite Catholic, Protestant and dissenter.
We need to send a clear and unambiguous message from this House that violence from any quarter is futile and we do not condone it in any circumstances. I propose, a Cheann Comhairle, that we have a debate tomorrow in this House for this purpose so that all can make clear that the violence and the tactic of violence used by the IRA has no support in this Republic.
I accept it is important that the Governments must continue to act to give leadership in the political process. As the House knows, and as the world knows, the difficulty in regard to moving the talks forward in Belfast has been one of how to deal with decommissioning. The two Governments together have put forward proposals to deal with that. We tabled proposals to break the deadlock that was preventing us moving on to the agenda as two Governments together. I invite the parties, all the parties in the talks, to return to that initiative of the two Governments designed to break the deadlock so that we can move on to substantive talks. Anything that this Government can do in conjunction with the British government will be done. We are in continuing contact with the British Government on a daily, and almost hourly, basis on the evolving situation. I can assure the House of that. Everything that can be done to provide political movement for those who are willing to take the political road will be done, but that must also be accompanied by absolute clarity on the fact that there can be no ambiguity or halfway house for anybody between violence and politics in this democracy.
I apologise for the shouting match, but this issue is important and we should make our views clear in this House. On behalf of Fianna Fáil I again condemn Monday's acts. It is a new move in the process since 9 February. We have had acts of violence but none as blatant and done in the name of the Provisional IRA as happened on Monday last.
I join everybody in saying that even though this morning it seems that the efforts of John Hume, Albert Reynolds and the Governments who have worked so hard on this matter over the past few years have been set at naught, that does not have to be the case. We must try to keep the process alive. It is not dead, although it is in trouble. All political leaders, particularly the Governments because they are in the driving seat, must work to move forward. I agree that the SDLP and the Unionists, and particularly some individuals within the talks who have managed successfully to frustrate the best efforts of everybody for months, have to be challenged. The point should not be missed that the talks were to start on 1 January 1995, not on 10 June 1996. We have lost a long period where there have been no productive talks. The world does not understand how in that period we had no agenda. If there are those at the talks who are frustrating the process to the extent that we might go back into a vacuum that inevitably leads to violence then those people within the talks as well as those outside should be fingered.
I condemn the acts of the Provisional IRA. The decision it made in August 1994 was the correct one. There is no room in the modern world or in the modern Ireland, North or South for the bomb and the bullet. That phase has passed. Those who try to drag us back into it do not serve anybody who has the name of Irish man or Irish woman in any kind of true spirit. In condemning this deed I say to the Government and the Taoiseach — I acknowledge that he said he will keep in contact — in the most constructive way I can that the phone calls we hear about or side meetings for 15 minutes in this type of climate are not the best signals. A summit would show that world which is focused on us that we as politicians in the democratic political process want to move things forward. If the Taoiseach does that he will have the support of this side of the House. I believe Prime Minister Major cannot refuse him as soon as the conference is over.
The Dáil does not recognise my party as being represented here but, on the understanding that I represent a party outside this House, it is important that the IRA find no solace or endorsement, through any means, for what has happened. While I welcome the other parties' suggestions for meetings to ensure the political process works, I understand the initial ceasefire was brought about by behind-the-scenes contacts and very difficult and hard work and negotiation. I would like to be assured that that is happening as vigorously as possible alongside whatever political work is taking place in the public arena.
On a more mundane matter on forthcoming legislation, I understand a credit union Bill has been in preparation for eight years. Will the Taoiseach give an indication as to when it may be brought before the House?
This is a matter in which Deputy Briscoe is interested. It is true that this legislation has been in preparation for a very long time. We are hoping to have it ready before Christmas, but there is a problem in regard to whether we will be able to have the fully drafted version ready before Christmas. It will certainly be very early next year. It is complex legislation running into 188 sections, perhaps more. Obviously, there is much pressure on drafting resources. Drafting of the children Bill which has in the region of 240 sections is being completed. Despite the substantial additional recruitment in the past year, drafting resources are at a premium. I can assure the Deputy, in deference to his interest in the matter, that I will take up the question of the credit union Bill with a view to having it introduced as quickly as possible.
In regard to promised legislation I ask the Taoiseach for a commitment that the terms of reference of the tribunal of inquiry into the hepatitis C scandal will be discussed with the Opposition party leaders in order to secure, in so far as possible, agreement in this House.
That is not excluded. We have not actually got the terms of reference ready. When we are considering them certainly the Deputy's suggestion will be constructively considered. On the face of it I do not see any reason it should not happen.
On a point of information, yesterday we got the bail Bill and extensive details on the proposals of the Minister for Justice in implementing that Bill. Will a printed draft Bill be produced or is that the total?
We will not be producing a Bill because, strictly speaking, one cannot produce a Bill which, at the time it is introduced or produced, is contrary to the Constitution. All we can do is produce proposals for a Bill, which we have done. We will provide as many answers as we can to any questions that may arise in regard to the proposals as published. There will be no shortage of information. All the information that would be available in a Bill will be available but it will not be in the form of a Bill for the reason I have outlined.
Will the document be published?
I understand that about 90 per cent of minors coming before the courts are not attending school. When will the school attendance (amendment) Bill be brought before the Dáil so that we can examine this problem further?
We hope to have that legislation, which is linked with the education boards legislation, before the House early next year. Part of the countrywide enforcement of school attendance legislation, which is currently confined to three cities, will be passed on to these boards. The two items of legislation — the school attendance and the education boards legislation — are effectively moving forward in tandem.
Is it the Government's intention to publish regulations for the conduct of indoor rock concerts, in view of some of the evidence that emerged yesterday during the inquest into the Point Depot tragedy?
Could we relate it to legislation rather than regulations?
I will have to make inquiries about that matter. It is normal, as the Ceann Comhairle has pointed out, that questions here are about principal legislation, not regulations. The Deputy will be aware that reams of regulations are published every day. I will make the necessary inquiries and communicate with the Deputy.