Order of Business.

It is proposed to take Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 3 in that order.

When the Seanad last met on 8 November it allowed the First Stage of the Family Planinng Bill, 1978, and at that time I was asked when I would like to have the next Stage taken. I asked that it might be taken in two weeks and there was no objection on any side of the House to that. It was stated in the report for that day: "Second Stage ordered for Wednesday, 22 November 1978". I requested the Leader of the House to order it today when he was describing the items which he proposed to the House should be taken this afternoon. He noted my request but clearly he is not prepared to accede to it. It is particularly regrettable that he has not ordered the Bill because the House did not meet last week as there was no business for it. We adjourned sine die. We are now meeting this afternoon and there are four items ordered. I submit that, if these items take up most or all of the Business of the House today, the House should meet tomorrow to discuss the principles and give a Second Reading to the Family Planning Bill, 1978. The Labour Party have tabled this Bill because of the need to legalise the availability of contraceptives, to change the censorship laws and give the health boards an active role in this very important health problem.

On a point of order is this not——

(Interruptions.)

It is not a point——

Surely this is a ruse to get around the fact that Senator Robinson wants to get on record the equivalent of a Second Reading.

The Labour Party tabled this Bill and sought a First Stage to have it published because they regard this as a very urgent social and medical problem. It is a situation which continues to discriminate against the minority and continues to place women in Ireland in a very disadvantaged position. There is a feeling at times that it is not an urgent problem. The Labour Party believe that the Government are neglecting their responsibilities in the matter and this despite the fact that the Taoiseach said that Fianna Fáil would introduce legislation within a year of being in office. They are now 17 months in office and there is no sign of any Bill being tabled in the matter.

The Seanad could have an opportunity to express a view on the urgency of the problem and on the real medical and social need for a change in the law. This House has taken the initiative before in relation to debating family planning. For that reason I propose an amendment of the Order of Business so that Item No. 6 be added to the items to be taken by the House and that, if necessary, the House sit tomorrow for a debate on the Family Planning Bill, 1978.

Why did Deputy Corish not——

(Interruptions.)

I do not want on the Order of Business to detract from the importance or the urgency of the Bill which Senator Robinson has mentioned. I want, on the other hand, to draw attention to Motion No. 20:

That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to make an order to preserve indefinitely the Viking site at Wood Quay already designated a National Monument, in view of the many other sites in Dublin available for civic offices.

I raised this in the House some weeks ago on the grounds, and under the very urgent understanding, that there is a deadline really pending in this case. It is only a matter of days or, if we are to believe the newspapers, hours before developments on Wood Quay begin to take place. I am not insisting that we take my motion today but I would ask the Leader of the House for some assurance as to when it will be taken. I interrupt, in a sense, Senator Robinson's request because my request is not going to take very much time. I suspect that the debate on whether or not her Bill is to be taken will probably take up a good deal of time and occupy a great deal of order and controversy in the House. I beg the indulgence of Senator Robinson and do not want to detract from the importance of what she said but the importance and urgency of the Wood Quay issue is palpable and obvious. There are many issues involved in it but I do not want to dispute the Order of Business today but I would like an assurance from the Leader of the House that it will be taken next week or the week after because the urgency surrounding the Viking site at Wood Quay makes it a matter of extreme priority.

I second Senator Robinson's proposal. The position is that we now have a situation in the Dublin area alone where we have over 20,000 people attending two clinics seeking assistance. Coupled with that——

We will not go into that at this stage. The Senator is merely seconding the motion.

In order to discuss the urgency of it, it is necessary to point out the number of people——

If the Senator is discussing the matter of urgency, that is all right but he may not discuss what is in the Bill.

I have not said anything about what is in the Bill.

The Labour Party are crying crocodile tears now.

What I am saying is——

I do not want to be distracted. I just want to address the Chair. The fact is that there is now a minority of people demanding a service of this nature and we have had an opportunity of giving it to them. There was a remark that Deputy Brendan Corish would have brought it in. Deputy Corish made an offer to this House for an all-party grouping to get together to examine all the ramifications of it and nobody took that up. Fianna Fáil certainly did not take it up. That remark cannot be allowed to go unanswered.

That is not relevant.

What is relevant?

The Senator is merely seconding the motion. There was an amendment by Senator Robinson.

As to whether this should be included in the Order of Business or not. Is that not correct?

What I am saying in effect is that there is need for it to be included in the Order of Business. I am stressing the urgency of it and I am quoting figures to prove that point of view. I do not think there is anything wrong with that.

That point of view is in order.

I am seconding it. I do not see any reason why the Bill cannot be taken today. We were given an undertaking that it would be taken on the second sitting day after 8 November 1978. This is the second sitting. I cannot understand why it cannot be gone ahead with at this point.

I support Senator Robinson's motion. If there is any further delay in proceeding to the Second Stage of this Bill it will be a further gross neglect of duty by the politicians to the young women of Ireland. It is a Government's duty to govern. Why are they afraid even to talk about it, which is all we are asking? I suggest that we support Senator Robinson and I hope that the lady Senators on the other side of the House will listen carefully to what is said.

Who wrote that for the Senator? Will the Senator have to read all of it?

I do not need anybody to write my speeches for me.

Why is the heavy gang here?

If Senator Crowley wants to immortalise himself it will not be through heckling in this chamber. On the proposed Order of Business, I would like to draw attention to the general unsatisfactory state of progress in this House. On the inaugural day of the present session high hopes were expressed here that this House would fulfil its considerable potential. On the last day before the summer recess some of us expressed the hope that the recess would not be excessively long so that we could come to grips with the backlog in the Order Paper. Throughout, Government spokesmen made the pretence of joining in our general aspirations, a pretence that now must be clearly seen as hypocritical. The fact is we did not reconvene after a long summer recess until 1 November. We met only on two days since. There are 15 or 16 private motions on the Order Paper. There is obviously no serious attempt on the part of the Government side to tackle them. It now must be crystal clear that the Government want to minimise and downgrade the role of the Seanad despite the previous pious protestations of Government spokesmen.

It is disturbing to find that on the rare occasions when Private Members' Business is taken, as on the Labour motion recently on the question of the disabled, expressions of obsequious gratitude are conveyed by the proposers to the Leader of the House. I want to remind Members that this House is not the property of the Leader of the House. It belongs to all of us. I would urge Labour and Fine Gael Members to be more assertive and to have a bit more backbone about the rights of the House.

I support what Senator Martin has said about the urgency of Motion No. 20, concerning Wood Quay. As far as one can ascertain, the time left before the bulldozers move into Wood Quay is short. This motion has been on the Order Paper for some time. There have been some negotiations about it. I know there is an order of precedence for motions but this motion, as a result of the negotiations, is next on the list of Private Members' motions. There is no point in leaving it until after destruction of the site in Wood Quay has commenced. I would like the Leader of the House to ensure that the motion is taken at the next available opportunity.

The matter of the Order of Business is something that concerns every political party represented in this House and, indeed, every individual Member of the House. The Order of Business should not be turned into a political issue. The Leader of the House, when suggesting the Order of Business should be required to give reasons why he feels that some matters are more important in his opinion, and in the opinion of the Government, than others. We all have our priorities. As far as I am concerned, the most important matter on the Order Paper is Motion No. 15, which deals with youth unemployment. I am not going to refer to that matter; that would not be in order. It should be possible for the Leader of the House to contact the Leaders of the other parties in advance of a meeting of the Seanad and arrange the Order of Business in accord with some priority or other.

I support Senator Kennedy's plea for some rationality in the approach to ordering the business of the House. The Senator rightly pointed out that there are very important motions on the Order Paper that have been lying there for some time. We are faced today with debates on two motions arising out of the reports of the Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation of the EEC. One relates to Community action in the cultural sector in the EEC and the other relates to the teaching of languages in the Community. Undoubtedly they are important subjects but they fade into insignificance beside Motions 14 and 20 on Wood Quay. Wood Quay has a specific urgency about it. I support Senator Kennedy's point of view that there should be some discussion between all parties to try to get an Order Paper that in some way reflects the seriousness of the matters on it and justifies the existence of this Chamber.

I would like to indicate our support for including Item No. 6 in the Order of Business today. It was agreed by the House unanimously that Item No. 6 would be taken on 22 November and it is wrong that such an agreement should have been entered into, as it now appears likely, just to get over the difficulties of that day. On that day a certain counting was done and it was seen that there was no alternative but to agree to it and let it go through on that day. The attitude expressed today in refusing it, so far as we can see—we have to wait to see what everybody has to say about it—seems as if it was included without any real intention of doing anything more about it. For the sake of the reputation of the House and of our precedures, when something is agreed to be printed, unless that means literally nothing, there should be a further agreement to having a Second Stage debate. We are in favour of the principle of having a Second Stage debate irrespective of the merits of that debate, and irrespective of the contents of the Bill. It is a matter for Members in the course of that debate, and on the vote on that Stage, to express their views on the merits and contents of the Bill. We should reach that Stage and have the debate. Consequently we will be supporting the proposed amendment to include Item No. 6 in the Order of Business.

I agree with what Senator Murphy has to say concerning the lack of use that is being made of the House. The short answer is that this House is primarily part of the legislative process and there is no legislation coming up. Private motions have their own intrinsic value but, essentially this is a legislative Chamber. The unfortunate fact is that the Government have fallen down badly in bringing forward legislation. That is the real reason why we do not have business to occupy us.

On the Order of Business I support Senator Martin's plea that we should without undue delay discuss the motion on Wood Quay. I see little point, if our debates in this House are to be regarded by the general public as relevant, in waiting until the subject matter of motions has become the subject of irrevocable Government decisions.

Is family planning not relevant?

With regard to the motion on Wood Quay, I hope it will be possible to take that on this day fortnight. With regard to the Family Planning Bill, I want to make it quite clear that there was no agreement or undertaking given to take that Bill today. The proposer of that Bill was asked when she wanted it put on the Order Paper and she said today. That merely means it is on the Order Paper. It is a matter for this House to decide every day it sits which items on the Order Paper will be taken. There can be no agreement in advance that anything in particular will be taken. I gave no agreement or undertaking that the Bill would be taken today.

As regards the question of whether it should be taken today, the position is, as I am sure most people in the House are aware, that the Government are about to introduce a Bill on family planning to be introduced within the next few weeks. It would be absurd to have one Bill dealing with family planning being debated in this House at the same time as another Bill on the same subject was being debated in the Dáil. For the reason that it would be obviously absurd to have two different Bills on the same subject being debated at the same time, I am not prepared to agree to order this Bill today.

Could the Leader of the House give any clear indication of——

The Leader of the House has concluded.

We have been promised this Government Bill for so long. Could we get some factual information as to when it is due?

There was a suggestion that the Leader of the House might discuss the order of motions or their precedence with all the parties.

The question of discussing the Order of Business goes on all the time between the Whips and there is no reason why this should not continue. There has not been any request to me to discuss the Order of Business. I would be very glad to do so at any time.

I want to thank the Leader of the House for his assurance about taking the motion in a fortnight's time. Surely the point made by Senator Cassidy on the matter is——

The matter is closed. To the motion: "That the Order of Business be Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 3" an amendment has been moved, "That item No. 6 be added."

Amendment put: "That Item No. 6 be added to the Order of Business."

The Seanad divided: Tá. 23: Níl, 26.

  • Blennerhassett, John.
  • Butler, Pierce.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Cooney, Patrick Mark.
  • FitzGerald, Alexis.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Harte, John.
  • Howard, Michael.
  • Hussey, Gemma.
  • Kennedy, Fintan.
  • Kilbride, Thomas.
  • Lynch, Gerard.
  • McAuliffe, Timothy.
  • McCartin, John Joseph.
  • Markey, Bernard.
  • Martin, Thomas Augustine.
  • Molony, David.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, John A.
  • Reynolds, Patrick Joseph.
  • Robinson, Mary T.W.
  • Staunton, Myles.
  • West, Timothy Trevor.

Níl

  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Brugha, Ruairí.
  • Cassidy, Eileen.
  • Conroy, Richard.
  • Cranitch, Micheál.
  • Crowley, Flor.
  • de Brún, Séamus.
  • Donnelly, Michael Patrick.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Goulding, Lady.
  • Hanafin, Des.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Herbert, Anthony.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Honan, Tras.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jago, R. Valentine.
  • Kiely, Rory.
  • Kitt, Michael.
  • Lambert, C. Gordon.
  • Lanigan, Michael.
  • McGowan, Patrick.
  • Mulcahy, Noel William.
  • O'Toole, Martin J.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Ryan, William.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Harte and Robinson: Níl, Senators W. Ryan and Brennan.
Amendment declared lost.
Order of Business agreed to.