The Order of Business today shall be No. 19, European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2003 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 6, Finance Bill 2004 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 11.30 p.m.; (2) Report and Final Stages of No. 19 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. by one question which will be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to the amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; and Private Members' business shall be No. 38, motion re Order of Business and Leaders' Questions (Standing Orders 26 and 26A)(resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 19, the conclusion of the Report and Final Stages of the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2003, agreed to?
A guillotine is being imposed here and there has been no co-operation from the Government side in respect of legitimate claims on electronic voting. I therefore oppose this proposal.
I oppose this measure as well. Included in the debate on this Bill, for which only an hour and a half is being provided, are ten amendments, some of which are related to electronic voting. The proposal is to change the voting system in the forthcoming elections against the wishes of all the Opposition parties. All of the Opposition parties are opposed to it and independent academics have repeatedly warned about the security of the system, yet the Government proposes to railroad through electronic voting. It is being done by the same Minister who has spent €40 million of taxpayers' money and who will be the director of elections for his party. If it happened in a banana republic in South America——
That is right.
——nobody would believe it. Nobody would believe the Government is pushing through a change to the voting system after spending €40 million for a completely unnecessary system. There is no shortage of people to count the votes. We have a reliable tallymen's service.
The Deputy is giving far too much detail. This might be more appropriate for the debate on the issue.
There is no demand for it. We have spent a fortune, €40 million of taxpayers' money, and the man who is pushing it through will be the director of elections for Fianna Fáil.
That is awful, if it is true.
I am glad I did not give the response I was going to on that one.
The Deputy should confine himself to brief comment at this stage, not the content of what is before the House.
I accept the Ceann Comhairle's ruling. However, this House has never debated the detail of this system. It will certainly not be debated after this measure is put through, by dint of superior votes in this House.
It cannot be debated right now. There will be an opportunity later on to debate.
The Ceann Comhairle will call a vote in a few minutes. We will have an hour and a half tomorrow. There will be no opportunity to debate the changing of the voting system.
The Standing Order is quite specific: a brief comment as to why a Deputy is opposing the particular proposal before the House, which is a proposal for dealing with the measure. The content of the particular legislation is not being dealt with.
The point is that the Government is trampling on the rights of the Opposition in this House. It is spending taxpayers' money to do so, to change a voting system that never required changing. It gives us no opportunity to examine independent academics' arguments about the security of the system.
We oppose this legislation being taken at 1.30 p.m. today. It does not have to be rushed at this point. I understand 26 February is the date that it comes into effect. In the meantime, considerable legal debate is ongoing, which may well land this Bill, along with others that the Government has rushed through in error, before the courts.
The Green Party is in favour of proceeding with technology but not without a verifiable paper audit trail. That is not a matter that this Government has addressed. To make matters worse, although we welcome the ending of the dual mandate, it is coming in again, with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, acting not just as the person bringing in electronic voting but also as director of elections for Fianna Fáil. This is a basic conflict of interest in the minds of the Irish public that the Minister needs to step back from and bring in an electoral commission. That is a matter the Government needs to take on board and we are protesting strongly against the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2004 until those matters are put right.
The committee which will deal with this legislation is dealing with other legislation this morning. In fact, some of the Deputies participating in it are not yet in the Chamber. Yet it is proposed to conclude this within one and a half hours. It is simply not on. What is involved here is of such importance that without the confidence of the electorate in the system of election participation, it simply will not work.
I appeal to the Taoiseach at this late hour to recognise that there is an essential need to have a corresponding verifiable paper audit trail, at least for a reasonable period of time, in order to establish public confidence in the electronic system, which Sinn Féin does not object to in principle. However, we certainly voice the concerns of many people who view with trepidation the prospect of the imposition of this system in the upcoming local and European elections. It is not acceptable and if the Taoiseach is not prepared to take these concerns on board we have no option but to oppose the proposal to proceed with the legislation.
The Bill is not about electronic voting. I was not one of the greatest advocates of electronic voting in the House. I like some of the old ways and have a great regard for tallies and all that.
The Taoiseach is a rabid traditionalist.
I remind the House of what happened. The Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 provided that electronic voting be used in all Irish elections. That was what the Act was about and that is when the debate took place. The Government decision of 30 October 2002 approved the purchase of the equipment, which was widely agreed as well, for use in European and local elections for 2004.
What Deputies have said is absolutely right, that no change in the Irish voting system should be introduced without independent and rigorous testing. This is exactly what the Department has done.
The system has been tested by national and international experts.
Deputy McManus, please allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption. Deputy Rabbitte spoke on behalf of the Labour Party.
The Taoiseach is misleading the House.
The Taoiseach, without interruption, please.
The Taoiseach should not be allowed to mislead the House.
The system has been consistently tested by national and international experts from Holland, Germany and the United Kingdom since work began in this area five years ago.
None of them voted in Ireland.
It has been used 400,000 times in this country.
Florida was the best example.
Allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption, please.
It was used here 400,000 times in the general election and in the second referendum on the Nice treaty, with positive feedback from all involved. Electronic voting was endorsed by the all-party Oireachtas committee following comprehensive and detailed examination and discussions and responses from all involved on 18 December last.
Directly elected mayors were also agreed by all parties but the Government did not mind changing that.
In the run up to the June election people in every part of the country will receive extensive information on the new system——
That is for sure.
——as they did the last time. They will have a chance to try the machines before polling day.
They will have the Fianna Fáil logo on them.
The new system will be the most accurate we have ever had and it will protect and improve the integrity of our electoral system.
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Ahern, Noel.
- Andrews, Barry.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Brady, Johnny.
- Brady, Martin.
- Browne, John.
- Callanan, Joe.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Carey, Pat.
- Carty, John.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
- Coughlan, Mary.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Cregan, John.
- Curran, John.
- Davern, Noel.
- Dempsey, Tony.
- Dennehy, John.
- Devins, Jimmy.
- Ellis, John.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Finneran, Michael.
- Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
- Fleming, Seán.
- Fox, Mildred.
- Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
- Glennon, Jim.
- Hanafin, Mary.
- Harney, Mary.
- Haughey, Seán.
- Healy-Rae, Jackie.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Keaveney, Cecilia.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Kelly, Peter.
- Kirk, Seamus.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Lenihan, Conor.
- McCreevy, Charlie.
- McDaid, James.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- McGuinness, John.
- Martin, Micheál.
- Moynihan, Donal.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Mulcahy, Michael.
- Nolan, M.J.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
- O'Connor, Charlie.
- O'Donnell, Liz.
- O'Donoghue, John.
- O'Donovan, Denis.
- O'Flynn, Noel.
- O'Keeffe, Batt.
- O'Malley, Fiona.
- O'Malley, Tim.
- Parlon, Tom.
- Power, Seán.
- Sexton, Mae.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Smith, Michael.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Wallace, Mary.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Wilkinson, Ollie.
- Woods, Michael.
- Wright, G.V.
- Allen, Bernard.
- Boyle, Dan.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Bruton, John.
- Burton, Joan.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Connolly, Paudge.
- Coveney, Simon.
- Cowley, Jerry.
- Crawford, Seymour.
- Crowe, Seán.
- Cuffe, Ciarán.
- Deasy, John.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- English, Damien.
- Enright, Olwyn.
- Ferris, Martin.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Gogarty, Paul.
- Gormley, John.
- Gregory, Tony.
- Harkin, Marian.
- Hayes, Tom.
- Higgins, Joe.
- Higgins, Michael D.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kehoe, Paul.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Lynch, Kathleen.
- McCormack, Padraic.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McHugh, Paddy.
- McManus, Liz.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Morgan, Arthur.
- Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
- Murphy, Gerard.
- Naughten, Denis.
- Neville, Dan.
- Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
- Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
- O'Keeffe, Jim.
- O'Sullivan, Jan.
- Pattison, Seamus.
- Perry, John.
- Quinn, Ruairi.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Ring, Michael.
- Ryan, Seán.
- Sargent, Trevor.
- Sherlock, Joe.
- Shortall, Róisín.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Stanton, David.
- Timmins, Billy.
- Twomey, Liam.
- Upton, Mary.
- Wall, Jack.
This is a bad day for democracy.
I wish to raise the matter of Friday sittings of the Dáil. Today'sIrish Independent carries a report that the Dáil sitting next Friday was cancelled by virtue of a special request from me. I regard this as unethical standards by the Government Chief Whip. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform gave me some time ago a copy of the Nally report into the Omagh bombings. I met the families, read the report and did not break confidence in this regard and, because of this, I requested through my Whip that the Government should not take the debate on the Nally report this Friday because I must attend an EPP meeting in Madrid in respect of the Spanish elections.
The Government Chief Whip then put out a report that the Friday sitting was cancelled because of a special request from me. That is untrue. I have neither the authority nor the remit to——
The Deputy has put his disclaimer on the record. It is not the appropriate place to raise this. He has been allowed to make his point and he has put his disclaimer on the record.
This report is in the press today.
I was astonished when I read it.
I call Deputy Rabbitte.
Let Deputy Kenny talk.
I have neither the responsibility of ordering Government business or the authority——
It is not the correct way to raise the matter and the Chair should have been given notice of the issue. The Deputy has been allowed to put his disclaimer on the record and, in accordance with precedent, I have no doubt it will be accepted. I call Deputy Rabbitte.
This is the Order of Business. How else is Deputy Kenny supposed to raise it?
There is no other way.
There are many other ways.
There are no other ways the record can be corrected.
There are other ways and the usual procedure is to give the Chair notice and arrangements can be made. I call Deputy Rabbitte.
A Cheann Comhairle, you are protecting the Government.
The Chair is not protecting the Government. The Deputy knows he is out of order.
If the Government Chief Whip comes to us to facilitate the Taoiseach in regard to personal or Government business, we facilitate her every time.
Deputy Kenny has put his disclaimer on the record. I ask the Deputy not to pursue that line. I would not like to be first Ceann Comhairle to put the leader of the Opposition out. The Deputy has made his point and he is being disorderly now.
We facilitate the Taoiseach every time when requests are made regarding personal or Government business.
The Deputy has made his point and put his disclaimer on the record and, in accordance with precedent, I have no doubt it will be accepted.
On a point of order——
There is a procedure for dealing with these matters.
What is it?
I call Deputy Durkan on a point of order.
On a point of order, there is no procedure and the Chair knows well there is no other procedure than putting on the public record a correction and a response to what is in fact——
It was a nasty piece of work.
That is a not a point of order and I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. Does the Deputy wish to leave the House?
That is intimidation.
On a point of order, what process is open to the leader of Fine Gael to answer lies that were told in this House?
I ask the Deputy to withdraw the word "lies".
They were lies.
The Government Chief Whip did not tell lies.
I did not tell lies.
They were lies.
I ask the Deputy to withdraw the word "lies".
It was a nasty piece of work.
They were lies.
I ask Deputy Allen to withdraw the word "lies".
I will if the leader of Fine Gael gets an opportunity to respond to untruths uttered in this House.
I ask the Deputy unequivocally to withdraw the word "lies".
If the leader of Fine Gael gets an opportunity to answer the untruths——
I ask the Deputy for the final time. If he does not withdraw the word "lies", he will leave the House.
They were untruths, spin.
The Deputy must withdraw the word "lies".
I withdraw the word "lies" and substitute "untruths".
The word is withdrawn.
Does the Ceann Comhairle not consider it part of his responsibility to ensure any briefing given about the business of the House is given either in the House or accurately on behalf of the House and should not be conveyed in any other way privately, given that this is an assembly which does its business in public?
Deputy Bruton knows if the Chair were to do that, it would be a full-time job. There is a procedure for dealing with the matter and the procedure was not followed.
What is the procedure?
To give the Chair notice and ask for time. That was done yesterday and it worked. I call Deputy Rabbitte.
On a point of order, what procedure is open to the leader of Fine Gael to answer untruths uttered in the House?
This Chair will not repeat itself. I told Deputy Durkan what the procedure is. It was adopted and accepted here yesterday.
Will an opportunity not be given to the Government Chief Whip to make a personal statement to the House?
The Deputy will be leaving the House.
Can I have clarification on that?
We are not having a discussion on it.
Will an opportunity not be given to the Government Chief Whip to make a personal statement in the House? Is that what the Chair is saying?
The Chair has made the position clear.
The leader of Fine Gael was entitled to receive that entitlement.
Out of courtesy to each other, perhaps those in Fine Gael will allow the Member on his feet to make the point of order, that is provided it is a point of order.
To have three members of the party trying to make a point of order at the same time is discourteous to the House and also to the members of their party.
What is the Ceann Comhairle doing?
The press statement was discourteous to the House. That is all that was discourteous.
Is the Ceann Comhairle telling me——
The procedure is well known by Members. Notice must be given to the Chair if somebody wants to make a personal statement in the House. That procedure was followed yesterday and worked quite well.
The Fianna Fáil Whip might make such a statement.
On a point of order——
If Deputy Durkan is not satisfied with the judgment he may come to the office of the Ceann Comhairle. I hope the point Deputy Allen wishes to raise is a point of order.
An untruth was uttered in this House yesterday by the Government Whip.
That is not a point of order and I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. If he does not do so, he will leave the House.
The Whip will withdraw what she said.
The Chair has dealt with this matter and we are moving on to the next business.
All the parties in Opposition have made written proposals to the Government Chief Whip in respect of Dáil reform. My party submitted an 80-page document to her. Last night the House debated a Fine Gael Private Members' motion on this issue. I was surprised not to hear somebody from Fine Gael explaining that motion on the radio this morning. Instead, I heard the Government Whip. However, that is an editorial decision.
It is the problem of "Morning Ireland".
Does Deputy Rabbitte have a point appropriate to the Order of Business?
The argument is that the Government Whip wants to introduce more family friendly arrangements in the Dáil which means that we will start business at 9 a.m. and continue until after 11 p.m. It is difficult to see the family friendly dimension of that proposal and I presume it means that——
Does the Deputy have a point appropriate to the Order of Business?
The Deputy knows that this is the subject matter of debate in the House this evening and there will be an opportunity to make the points he is now making at that stage.
I am obliged to the Ceann Comhairle for that information. However, I must make the point that I am sure Dáil staff will have something to say.
That does not arise at this stage.
I want to raise this point with the Ceann Comhairle as holder of that office.
Then raise it.
That is rapier-like wit.
I hope it will mean that when we commence 9 a.m. sittings, one will be able to gain access to the Dáil.
That does not arise this morning. I call Deputy Sargent.
If one is here at 7.59 a.m. one can gain access, but if one arrives at 8.01 a.m. one cannot do so.
The Deputy is being disorderly and should allow Deputy Sargent to make his point. The matter does not arise.
What does not arise? It is very important.
Of course it is important and that is why it should be dealt with in an important way.
Does the Ceann Comhairle, as the guarantor of our rights, intend to take action in respect of this matter? In the context of the fact that——
It does not arise at this stage. The Deputy is probably aware that the matter is before the CPP. I call Deputy Sargent.
——we have submitted Dáil reform proposals, the Ceann Comhairle has permitted the Government Chief Whip to distort the reason that there will be no sitting on Friday.
No, Ceann Comhairle, we have rights here.
Deputy Rabbitte is out of order. That matter has been dealt with.
No, the Government Whip is out of order.
I want to ask the Ceann Comhairle a question. Does he propose to take action to cause the Government Chief Whip to withdraw the distortion as to why there is no Friday sitting?
That is not a matter for the Chair. I call Deputy Sargent.
The Ceann Comhairle should answer the question.
Deputy Kenny has put his disclaimer on the record and I have no doubt that, in accordance with precedent in the House, it will be accepted.
The Government Whip is embarrassed.
What is the answer to the question? Will the Government Whip withdraw what she said?
Deputy Rabbitte is out of order. As Deputies have pointed out, they would like some time to debate Report Stage of the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill. However, they are now being disorderly and frustrating their own wishes. I call Deputy Sargent.
Will the Government Whip withdraw what she said? It was a complete distortion.
I think she wants to do so.
The Chair has obliged Deputy Allen to withdraw the word "lies". Is a lie acceptable if it comes from the Government side of the House?
That is a very revealing interjection. I do not propose to add to the untruths that have been uttered from the other side. Will the Taoiseach and the Government Chief Whip not take the opportunity of addressing what is a glaring need for Dáil reform?
We are not having a debate on Dáil reform. If Deputies continue to be disorderly, I will move on to No. 19.
I was asking about promised——
The Deputy is out of order. There will be a debate in the House later and the Deputy may make his point at that stage.
I am simply asking that the points made by previous speakers be taken on board, that we will have what those in Northern Ireland might term "proximity talks" about Dáil reform, at the very least, and that we might make some progress on the current impasse.
That matter is the subject of a debate in the House.
I wish to inquire about the Garda Síochána Bill, but not in respect of Dáil reform. With regard to the enormous mafia-like profiteering from waste exports from this country, which are making €115,000 worth——
The Taoiseach on the Garda Síochána Bill. If he wishes to comment on the other matter he may do so.
Deputies should resume their seats and allow the Taoiseach to comment.
If it is in order to do so. I wish to say something to Deputy Kenny. I know what the Government Whip said last night and there is no reason to have an argument about it. The schedule for next Friday had been prepared and circulated. It was intended to have a debate on the Nally report. However, the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Kenny, has official business on Friday. He has taken a special interest in the Nally report and what he said is correct; he received it confidentially. He has honoured his commitment in that regard. We totally accepted that he has official business on Friday, the day on which the report was to be taken, and we agreed to reschedule the business. That is all it was about. There was no argument.
However, the Government leaked that he was responsible.
The Garda Síochána Bill will be taken this session.
The Taoiseach on Deputy Sargent's questions.
Could we not deal with some other business on Friday?
We cannot just schedule business like that.
The Government does it all the time.
The Deputy referred to Friday's business. Another item, the Mahon report, was due to be debated on that day and many Members went to a great deal of trouble to prepare for it. Why is that debate not proceeding, as scheduled, on Friday? There was no need to abandon business on Friday. Why is the debate on the Mahon report not proceeding?
The Government did not have to blame the cancellation of business on Friday on Deputy Kenny. We could have spent more time debating the issue of electronic voting on that day.
I understand that the Taoiseach earlier stated that the extension of electronic voting in the European and local elections has been agreed by all parties.
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
It does arise.
It does not arise on the Order of Business.
A statement made by the Taoiseach on the Order of Business is proper subject matter to raise.
It is not proper subject matter.
The Taoiseach was inaccurate and incorrect. How could other parties agree to the extension of electronic voting in the European and local elections when the orders which allow for that extension have not yet been laid before the House?
The Taoiseach, on secondary legislation.
I already answered that question on a number of occasions in recent weeks.
No, the Taoiseach did not do so.
There are no orders in respect of this matter. What I stated on the Order of Business was that the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 provided that electronic voting would be used in all Irish elections. I was right, the Deputy is wrong, and he should withdraw what he said.
No, the Taoiseach is wrong.
I am not wrong.
It is a matter of fact.
We cannot have a discussion on the matter here.
It is a matter of simple fact.
I suggest that Deputy Gilmore submit a question to the appropriate Minister.
On a point of order, the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 did not allow for the use of electronic voting in all elections.
Sorry, Deputy, we cannot——
The Deputy made a point of order and the Chair jumped in before he could finish it.
We cannot debate the matter now, Deputy. The Chair is not in a position to judge the rights and wrongs of the matter.
Do you want to run the House with yourself and your own party?
The Deputy should withdraw that remark.
Deputy Rabbitte, you will withdraw that remark.
You are biased to a degree that is outrageous.
Deputy Rabbitte, withdraw that remark. We cannot have a point of order when we are dealing with a point of disorder.
This is outrageous.
Deputy Rabbitte, you will withdraw the remark.
I am saying it further, Sir.
You will withdraw the remark about the Chair.
What will I withdraw, Sir?
You accused the Chair of being partial.
What was the remark? I did not mention the word "impartial".
Deputy, you know what you said and I ask you to withdraw it.
What did I say? If you want me to withdraw it, tell me what I said.
You made a remark about the Chair and his own party. You cast a reflection on the Chair and I ask you to withdraw that.
You did not ask the Chief Whip to withdraw her remark.
In what fashion did I do that?
I am asking you to withdraw what you said.
I asked did you want to run the House with yourself and your own party in it.
That is how it looks.
You know, Deputy, the Chair does not have a party. The Chair is impartial.
We do not believe that anymore.
I am asking you to withdraw the remark which cast a reflection on the Chair.
You can be impartial and still only have your own party in here.
I am asking you to withdraw the remark which cast a reflection on the Chair.
If you take that meaning from the remark I withdraw it.
May I raise my point of order now?
The Taoiseach says the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 allows for electronic voting in every constituency——
It does not.
——but that is not so.
We cannot discuss this matter now. The Taoiseach has answered the question.
The Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 allows for the making of regulations to use electronic voting in named constituencies and for named elections. The orders allowing for electoral voting in the European and local elections have not yet been made. They have not been laid before the House and there is no agreement that electronic voting may be used in that way.
You have made your point, Deputy Gilmore. We now move on to the next item.
A Cheann Comhairle, you called me and I have the floor. I have been waiting here for the last matter to be concluded.
We will hear you, Deputy Ó Caoláin.
A debate on the Nally and Mahon reports had been scheduled for Friday next. We have been advised that the Friday sitting is not proceeding but we have not been properly advised as to when it is intended to reschedule both these very important matters. Will you clarify, in order that we can be absolutely clear on your impartiality in the Chair, when you ceased to be a member of a political party represented in this House?
I understand the Whips will meet tonight to agree the rescheduling of the items which have been deferred.