SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - SHANNON ELECTRICITY BILL.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

As I see the Minister for Industry and Commerce present, I want to call the attention of the House to a complication that has arisen with regard to the Shannon Electricity Bill. Just as we were concluding our business on Friday, a discussion arose about the Arterial Drainage Bill, and it was suggested by some Senator, who said that he would be away to-day, because of matters connected with the local elections, that he would be glad if the Seanad would take that Bill on Thursday, and accordingly that was agreed to. Then a suggestion was made that the Minister might like to have the Shannon Bill taken on Thursday. He said, however, that that would not suit him at all, and accordingly I there and then said that the Shannon Bill would be taken on Tuesday, that is to-day. Unfortunately, Mr. O'Sullivan, our Assistant Clerk, had just been called away at the moment and he had previously provisionally settled the Agenda for Tuesday with me. In that Agenda we had left out the Shannon Electricity Bill, and being away when this promise was given by me, he sent out the Agenda as we had provisionally fixed it, and the Agenda set out that the Shannon Bill would not be taken until Thursday. The position is, that the Minister will be up to his neck and shoulders, if I may use the expression, on to-morrow and Thursday in the Dáil. His estimates are coming on and are pretty certain to occupy him for the whole of the two days. The Dáil is not sitting to-day on account of the elections.

We have got then to accommodate the convenience of the Minister. On the other hand, I think we are bound to consider the convenience of Senators, and more particularly of minorities. We all know, of course, that it is the privilege and the right of minorities to pursue their opposition, if they wish to, up to the very last minute, and that will include the final stage of this Bill. Senator Sir John Keane intimated to me last week his great anxiety to say something on the Fifth Stage of this Bill, and accordingly I told him it would not be on until this week. In that prophecy I was correct, but he did not know, and, in fact, the matter escaped my notice that it would be on to-day. He is engaged to-day looking after the county council elections in his own county and could not be here, but he will be here on Thursday. I would suggest to the Minister—I may say that I want to convenience him in every way because his position is a difficult one— that the matter might be met in this way: supposing we were to meet on Thursday at 2.30, and were to take up this Bill the first thing, I could then allow a quarter of an hour to Senator Sir John Keane to speak on it, and the Minister who has thrice slain the slain in this matter might perform the operation for the fourth time in another quarter of an hour. That would enable the Minister to get back to the Dáil at 3 o'clock. I suggest that an arrangement of that kind would be the best for all parties. Of course, I am mainly responsible for the mistake, because I should have corrected the Order Paper. I did not notice the mistake, however, until the Order Paper had been sent out, and that is the difficulty. Senator Sir John Keane would have a grievance if we were to take the Bill to-day, and the Minister will have a grievance if we do not accommodate him in some way. What I have suggested is, I think, the best way out of the difficulty.

I do not think Senator Sir John Keane will be made any easier if this Bill is taken to-day rather than on Thursday. If he is to be decapitated to-day rather than on Thursday, I do not think we will be doing any wrong to him.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The point is that Senator Sir John Keane did not know that the Bill would be taken to-day. As I have already pointed out, it is by mistake, for which, as I said earlier, I am mainly responsible, that it is not on the Order Paper to-day. We have minorities in this House, and we have had instances, and very proper instances, in which minorities have persisted in their opposition up to the very last moment, because it was a matter of principle with them. I am anxious to protect these rights of minorities, and if we can come to an arrangement which will produce the minimum of inconvenience to everyone concerned I think we ought to adopt it.

To me it does not matter in the least whether the Bill is taken to-day or on Thursday, but I am aware that several Senators, at great personal inconvenience to themselves, have cancelled appointments which they had made for to-day in connection with the Local Government elections and have come here instead. Some of them are complaining that, after coming here, they should be told that the Bill is not to be taken to-day. As far as I am concerned, I do not mind in the least.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I have explained how the mistake occurred and have taken the blame for it on myself. It was a matter of absolute indifference to me when it came on, but inasmuch as Senators will be here again on Thursday, I think, in view of what I have said, that it ought to be taken that day. I would like to hear what the Minister has to say on the matter.

I must say that I was rather disappointed at finding that this Bill was not to be taken to-day, but the explanation that has been given sufficiently accounts for that, I think. I would like to say, however, that I am in rather a difficulty as regards my Estimates. It was only to-day I heard that my Estimates may not come on to-morrow in the Dáil. That means that my preliminary statement on the Estimates will not be taken until Thursday. There is one Estimate at present under consideration in the Dáil, the discussion of which is due to be resumed to-morrow. With the leave of the Dáil the further consideration of that Estimate might be postponed until Thursday, during which time I might be able to get here to discuss the Shannon Bill with Senator Sir John Keane. He appears to be the only Senator anxious for a further discussion on the matter. I would ask the Seanad to remember that I am completely in the hands of the Dáil in this matter. If the Dáil does not agree to-morrow to postpone the consideration of an Estimate already entered upon, then, of course, I cannot force it to take a course which I would otherwise suggest. If it does indulge me in that to-morrow, and if that Estimate should be postponed until Thursday, then I may be able to get here. In that event 3 o'clock on Thursday would suit me equally with 2.30. I am afraid that half an hour would scarcely be sufficient to allow for the discussion here on the Fifth Stage of the Shannon Bill. Leaving it in that way, I shall do all I can to be here on Thursday, but I am not able to promise that on that day I shall be relieved by the Dáil from going on with my Estimates there. I am entirely in the hands of the Dáil, and cannot give any assurance that I will be here on Thursday.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I am sure that the Seanad will be quite agreeable to take up the consideration of the Shannon Bill on Thursday at any hour that will be most convenient for the Minister.

If, in view of what I have stated, it is possible for me to be here on Thursday, I will attend between 3 and 4 o'clock, but I repeat that I am not able to promise that I will be released by the Dáil from my Estimates.

I came here specially to-day, believing that the consideration of the Shannon Bill would be taken up, and in order to attend I was obliged to cancel some very important engagements. I wonder would it suit the Seanad if this Bill were to be taken, say, this day week.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I am afraid, Senator, that would not suit the convenience of the Minister. You see, the Bill has to go back to the Dáil, and that is why we are so anxious to accommodate him on Thursday.

What about Friday?

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The Minister is anxious to have the Bill finally disposed of in the Seanad on Thursday so that it can be sent back to the Dáil. I take it now that we are agreed to take this Bill on Thursday at some hour that will be convenient for the Minister.

Agreed.