It is proposed to take: No. 10 — Statements on Northern Ireland. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 10, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 4.45 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: (1) the opening statement of the Taoiseach; the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party; the Leader of the Progressive Democrats Party and the Leader of the Democratic Left Party, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; (2) the statement of each other member called upon shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (3) Members may share time; and (4) the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be called upon not later than 4.30 p.m. to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 15 minutes.
Order of Business.
Are the proposals for dealing with No. 10 satisfactory? Agreed.
Today we will debate Northern Ireland and next Tuesday and Wednesday nights during Private Members' time we will debate the economic difficulties in the Border region. Will the Taoiseach say how, during the Irish Presidency, the Government allowed the loss of £78 million from the Delors package, negotiated as part of the Essen proposals and the last matter negotiated by Fianna Fáil in Government, with no response from the Government?
That is not relevant at this time, but if the Taoiseach so desires he may intervene.
That is a decision of the European Parliament, not of the governments and it is a matter that is now being reopened by the European Commission because it does not agree with the decision made by the Parliament in this instance.
Yesterday, in reply to Deputy Dermot Ahern, the Taoiseach said that he had no involvement in and could do nothing about this matter.
I did not say that.
I am glad Commissioner Wulf-Mathies was not asleep, as was the Government on this issue.
Deputy Ahern is misquoting and misrepresenting what I said yesterday. I did not say that we could do nothing about the matter, I said we have no involvement in it.
I was here.
It is the same thing.
The Deputy should not seek to misrepresent what I said. Of course that matter should be reopened, but it was raised here yesterday without notice.
The Labour Party sponsored it.
Now that I have been given notice I have been able to ascertain the facts, which I have stated.
The Taoiseach's Labour Party colleagues sponsored it.
The Government should watch matters such as this. It was difficult to negotiate that money in Essen and, even during the Irish Presidency, the Government was not watching what was going on in Europe.
This should not lead to argument or debate now.
There is no Minister from the Border, that is what is wrong.
When will the Government be ready to take Committee Stage of the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and Immunities of Witnesses) Bill?
I cannot give the Deputy a definite answer to that question at present, but I will make inquiries and communicate with him.
Has the Government had an opportunity to consider the Supreme Court judgement in the McKenna case and has it been in a position to decide the parameters within which it must operate in the context of the forthcoming bail referendum? In view of the Taoiseach's solo run yesterday, has he abandoned all hope of getting the support of Democratic Left and the Labour Party?
I hope that each party will campaign in favour of the Government proposals.
I am referring to the Opposition parties. I know that the proposals will have the support of the three Government parties. Yesterday the Fine Gael Party announced that its director of elections will be Deputy Charles Flanagan. He will lead a very vigorous campaign and I know the same applies to the Labour and Democratic Left parties in Government. It will be interesting to see how vigorous the Deputy's party is in the matter.
It will be apparent to the Taoiseach that were it not for Fianna Fáil pressing this issue throughout 1995 we would not be holding a referendum.
It should not lead to argument or debate now.
Does the Taoiseach accept that it hardly represents a good example of Government cohesion to have him and his party playing a solo game on this bail referendum?
Can the Taoiseach give a commitment to the House on the introduction of the school attendance Bill? We are reading daily reports about young children who urgently require protection, roaming the streets. It is a serious indictment on all of us.
The Deputy knows the procedure and he should seek to comply with the regulations governing the Order of Business.
Can the Taoiseach indicate when the school attendance Bill will be brought before the House?
I answered that question yesterday. I do not know whether the Deputy's memory extends that far back.
The Taoiseach should not make light of the fact that 15 year olds are roaming the streets of Dublin putting themselves and society in danger. The Taoiseach and his Government have failed abysmally to deal with this problem.
Deputy Martin should not ignore the Chair.
Since the Government has now abandoned the idea of a third banking force, can the Taoiseach say what the future holds for the TSB, the ACC Bank and the ICC?
The Deputy should table a question on that matter.
It is promised legislation relating to the merger of three parties.
It is a cause of concern to the staff of the three banks I mentioned. They do not know where their future lies with this Government.
Can the Taoiseach clarify the lead story in The Examiner today in which the Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, and the Attorney General claim they will take a case against British Nuclear Fuels on the Sellafield issue?
The Deputy could raise that matter at a more appropriate time.
It is the appropriate time. Yesterday, during questions, the Minister for the Environment had no knowledge of it. Can we have some clarity from the Government as to whether this story is true? If it is true, maybe the Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, will tell the Minister, Deputy Howlin, who is chairman of a committee looking at the matter.
There are many ways of raising the matter, Deputy.
Who is in charge of the Attorney General's Office?
Will the Taoiseach comment on why the report on physical and sensory disabilities is being shelved once again? Its publication has been delayed on a number of occasions and now it is being shelved again. It was to form the basis of planning for the future for the disabled in our community.
Is there legislation in that area, Taoiseach?
The Deputy is asking me about a report, not about promised legislation. Therefore, it is not in order on the Order of Business. Obviously, I will make the necessary inquiries and revert to Deputy Moffatt.
Does the Taoiseach intend to comply with the McKenna judgment in providing independent information to the electorate on the bail referendum or any future referenda? The essence of the McKenna case was that the Government cannot supply information and cannot propose one side or the other. Will the Taoiseach comply with that judgment and will he use the Bill I have placed on the Order Paper to set up an independent referendum commission to allow independent information to be given to the people?
The Deputy has made his point adequately.
While every party in the House may be in favour of the bail referendum, there may be future referenda we do not all favour. The public is entitled to independent information.
The Government will comply with the Supreme Court judgment which is binding since it is the supreme interpreter of the Constitution.
We will not contravene the judgment by the expenditure of public funds in a way that would be contrary to the decisions of the Supreme Court in the McKenna case. The Deputy can be at ease on that matter.
Will the Taoiseach give Government time to discuss the commitment in the programme A Government of Renewal in relation to the establishment of community based teams to combat drugs abuse due to the drugs crisis in every community?
To what legislation is the Deputy referring?
This is a promise and commitment in the programme A Government of Renewal. There is a crisis in our communities.
It is perfectly in order for the Deputy to seek a debate on the topic he mentions because of its importance. I suggest that he first communicates with his own party's Whip who if he is agreeable will then transmit his request to the Government which will consider it in the normal way.
Perhaps the Taoiseach could give Government time, as I have suggested in relation to hepatitis C and for a debate on agriculture?
With regard to the reply the Taoiseach gave to Deputy Dempsey, when independent advice is being given to the electorate on the referendum, will there be a fair and independent tendering process? This was not so in the past.
I do not think that question will arise.
The Taoiseach should answer the question.
Last week I asked the Taoiseach to consider whether he will give a facility to his backbenchers and others who wish to discuss agriculture, which is our biggest industry and specifically the beef crisis. In the past seven days has the Taoiseach considered the proposal for such a debate in Government time? Does the Government accord that sort of priority to the issues to be addressed? Can the Taoiseach now tell the House that he is favourably disposed to such a debate?
There are many other ways of raising that matter. I am getting on to the Order of Business proper.
Am I in order?
No, the Deputy is not in order. There are many other ways of raising that matter.
The silence is deafening, Taoiseach. The Government is selling us down the swannee.