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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 10 Mar 1971

Vol. 69 No. 13

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take business in the following order: Nos. 3, 4 and 5.

When is it proposed to take No. 1 on the Order Paper, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 1971—First Stage? I know Senator Horgan raised this matter last week and that the Leader of the House said that it was under consideration. I should like to emphasise that this is just the First Stage, the right to publish, and that in the Parliamentary process in a democratic society it is necessary on an issue like this that the Bill is published, so that there may be a debate on it. It is important that this merely technical Stage is passed so that the terms of the Bill may be made known and that the democratic process may take place. I should be glad if the Leader of the House could give us an indication when this First Stage of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill may be taken.

Could the Leader of the House give us an indication of the hours of sitting tomorrow?

I should like to associate myself with Senator Robinson's remarks and to express my disappointment at the continued inaction of the Government on this point. Although in some ways this cannot be said to be a particularly urgent piece of legislation, it is obvious that the debate which the mere formulation of this proposal has aroused outside the House makes it very necessary that we, in this House, should be seen to be responsive to public opinion and to public interest. I urge on the Leader of the House, when he is considering the Order of Business for next week, the consideration that, when long speeches such as were made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Dáil Éireann yesterday continue to be made, and when no action is taken by the Government on the basis of the kind of sentiment expressed by him, the credibility of the Government and, to a certain extent, of this Parliament, is involved. What we are asking for is a very simple and yet necessary Parliamentary step. It has to be taken in order to allow the necessary process of amendment, clarification and discussion to begin on a matter of such public importance. I conclude by saying that I do not think any of us who was involved in the preparation of this Bill is prepared to consider indefinite postponements of it.

I merely wish to inquire if the Leader of the House could give me any idea when No. 2 might be taken. It is a Private Member's Bill in my name and that of Senators O'Brien and Butler, the attempt being to make better provision for the maintenance of deserted wives. I realise that this Bill was put in only last week and I am not pressing Senator Ó Maoláin on this. Nevertheless, I should be grateful for some indication as to when the First Stage might be taken.

In regard to No. 1, there is no emergency about it. There is no great overwhelming public demand that we should take any immediate action. I do not agree with Senator Horgan's interpretation of the situation either in regard to what the Minister for Foreign Affairs said or the necessity for immediate action to display the credibility of this House. The matter is under consideration and as soon as we have considered it we will acquaint the Seanad of our decision.

In regard to the sittings of the House, it is proposed to sit tomorrow from 3 p.m. to discuss Motion No. 12. In regard to Senator Kelly's Bill, I hope to be able to inform him of the position on the next sitting day.